Monday, September 28, 2015

Touch a Truck Event

Recently, we went to a 'touch-a-truck' event, and Eli had a BLAST!  If you're not familiar with these, a lot of cities do them, so that kids have an opportunity to see inside (or, in this case, even GET inside) different types of public service vehicles.

At this one, we even saw a LifeFlight helicopter, and Eli couldn't wait to get inside!

He quickly figured out how to do the seatbelt/harness and strapped himself in - then very seriously asked if he could go for a ride.  He was disappointed that it wasn't an option.

He got to meet a K-9 officer : )!  This was one of my favorite parts!

He got to check out the inside of a police cruiser.

Then, he got to CLIMB inside a forestry commission truck. He found out what "that string up there" does when he pulled on it. The forestry representative thought it was hilarious when the horn sounded...and after the initial surprise of hearing the (VERY LOUD) horn, so did Eli.  He proceeded to honk a few more times, just for fun.

I actually think that the forestry truck was his favorite, edging out the helicopter, which was a surprise to all of us.  We had a hard time getting him to move on!  He said he might want to be a "forest guy" when he grows up...he loved the idea of fighting forest fires and driving a bulldozer.

The fire truck is always a favorite, too, of course! Notice how all of the doors/drawers are open for kids to see inside. This was the case for ALL of the vehicles, and the drivers/service men were happy to show the kids around and explain what all of their equipment is for.

At the end of the day, we were all worn out, but it was definitely worth it. Eli and Itty Bitty had fun!

Friday, September 25, 2015

One of THOSE Days

I am definitely having one of THOSE days. I know part of it is because I'm still sad about W leaving. I know part of it is because of a change in Itty Bitty's situation that makes it look less likely that we'll get to adopt him.  I know part of it is fatigue from trying to do a lot in a very short amount of time - though I am very grateful that we will have some quieter family time this weekend.   I know part of it is because of some weird scheduling that has led to unavoidable conflicts and a crap-ton of hours of listening to my fellow teachers complain about it.

Part of it is because I received another call, a referral for a little girl. I immediately accepted her referral. 10 minutes later, I received a text that said that another family was getting her placement.

Sometimes, this freaking roller coaster that foster care is can be SO DIFFICULT.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Call

When we first became foster parents, the day that we got our license, the agency explained that we were "on call."  This meant that, in theory, we could receive a call - day or night - asking us to take a child with very little information and very little notice.  Once a child or children are placed in a home, that home is taken off of the call list, when children leave, a foster family has to decide whether or not to go back "on call", as well as when to go back "on call."

Since W left on Friday afternoon, everything has seemed so...quiet and calm.  Mornings have become less hectic. I have fewer children to gather and drive to preschool. I have less (surprisingly, LOTS less) laundry in the pile affectionately known as "Mount Washmore." 

But it's not going to stay this way.

We have been talking as a family since W left, and trying to answer so many questions. Are we okay?  Are we planning to take another child?  If we do, when?  Do we need a few weeks to just be a family of four?  Do we need to wait until Itty Bitty is older, or until we have some more definite answers in his case?

Unsurprisingly, we really don't have the answers to these questions yet.  We all are a bit shaken, due to the suddenness of W's departure; he was gone less than 3 hours after I received the phone call that he'd be moving out.  We are all sad that he is gone, though we knew that he would one day leave. Eli has definitely had some feelings of sadness and loss, though he is showing signs of healing. Talking about W feels awkward at this point to all of us, though this is also improving.  And don't even get me started on the anger that I feel toward his caseworker; the woman who is supposed to represent his best interests, but who handled his transition out of our home very poorly.

But, in the midst of everything that's happened, we also feel stronger. We did it. We were able to foster a child, and to help a family who needed it. We dealt with the uncertainty and all of the "ifs" and "whens" that come with foster care. Eli went with me to drop W off with the caseworker and his (W's) siblings, and Eli was able to see them together, and that the eldest two were excited about their return.  He knows that W has another home and another place to be, and a part of all of us is glad for W, that he will be able to be with his family members.

In the meantime, we are finishing the process of cleaning out the clothing that W outgrew - and hoping that Itty Bitty will still be with us one day to wear it. We are removing W's car seats from our cars (and waiting on a certain caseworker to actually RETURN a car seat) and storing them.  We are putting away the items that weren't able to go home with W.   And, we are preparing our hearts and minds for what may come.

While we really don't know the timing or details, we will likely foster another child, since, for now, we've decided to leave our home and hearts open and place our family back "on call".

Sunday, September 20, 2015

W's Last Day

I can't believe I am typing this, but after six months in care with our family, W is gone. I knew that Friday, there was a real possibility that he would be moved, and that his time in foster care would be over.  However, I had NO idea that everything would end the way it did.

See, while my husband and I would have adopted W, given the chance, we were told from the very beginning of his time with us that he would be a very temporary member of our family. We were very careful to explain (and reiterate) this to Eli to help him understand, and we welcomed W for the time that we had him. We loved and cared about W. We took him places and tried to broaden his horizons.  We watched him overcome struggle after struggle. In the meantime, we were told about family members who were stepping up to help with the children in W's family, and that one or more of them might pursue  custody.  This actually looked very likely over the summer, and at one point W was told by his caseworker that he would be leaving us before the end of June.  But, that day came and went without so much as a phone call. In August, he received a new caseworker, who pushed for the children to return home to the birth mother, rather than being placed with a different family member.

Then it happened.

Friday, I was told in the morning to stay near my phone.  I received a cryptic text message that something might be changing in W's situation around 11 AM...and I just knew.  I still wasn't expecting the phone call at 3:45 that afternoon that he was being sent home immediately.  The caseworker actually said that she was on her way to pick him up at school and take him home to his mother.  I completely hit the roof, and demanded that she let ME pick him up from school, and then take him back to my home for his clothes and toys first.  Thankfully, she acquiesced, on the condition that I meet her halfway to his mother's home. I texted the hubs, who was still at work, so that he would know, too.

I had difficulty finishing work that day.  I was trying NOT to think about what was happening; one of my fellow teachers realized that I was upset, immediately guessed what had happened and offered encouragement.  When I arrived at the daycare, I explained to the teacher and the owner that it was W's last day, and that he would be returning home, so that they could give him hugs. As I picked him up, I explained to W that it was his last day at Eli's school, so that he could say goodbye to friends and teachers.  As we were in the car, buckled up on the way home, I told W that he was going home to his mommy.  At first, W was really excited. I think he thought he was going on a visit.  At first, Eli was nonchalant. I don't think he fully understood what was happening.

Patrick and I got home at about the same time. He let W pick a show to watch on TV while I went about the business of sorting and folding his clothes for packing.

At that point, reality really started to hit all of us. Eli began to argue with W's choice of TV show, and Patrick gently reminded Eli that, since it was W's last time watching TV with us, that W should get to choose.  It was then that it hit home for Eli, and he began to cry.  W was still happily watching TV as Patrick comforted Eli. It hit home for me moments later, as I realized that I would not have time to wash the last few items of W's clothing in the hamper, and that I would have to send a few items home dirty.  It hit W pretty hard when he saw me come out of his room with all of his clothes, books, and toys packed into a plastic tote and bookbags. Patrick tried explaining to him that he was "going home to his mommy,"  but W began crying and repeating "Go home here, Appa."  Nonetheless, we knew what we had to do, and I drove him to meet up with the caseworker, as agreed.

We haven't heard anything about W since Friday night, and we probably won't.  His leaving was both much easier and much more difficult than I'd imagined. It is really weird to walk through the house and for him to not be here; it's a little eerie to walk into our back bedroom at night and see only Itty Bitty in his crib.  It is weird to walk through the house and not have to fuss at one of the boys for being rowdy or wild, since Eli has been - for the most part - very quiet since W left. 

In the meantime, as we are getting used to a 'new normal' without W, Patrick and I are contemplating what to do in the near future. We were definitely attached to W, and will need some time to process his rapid departure. Our current reality is that we do not know when another call for another child will come, but we will be trying to prepare our home and our hearts for when this happens.

And I think we will end up taking on another child. Because, when I think back to the little boy who was brought to our doorstep more than 6 months ago with only the clothes on his back and a few donated items from the Methodist church, it is bittersweet. My heart aches with pity for the lost, confused little toddler that W was when he arrived....and for the happy memories we had with the bouncing, thriving preschooler who was sent back home.  W went from being a child who did not know his own name and could only speak a very few words, to a child who was very vocal and opinionated. From a child who could not put on any article of clothing independently, to a child who completely mastered his own self-care routine - including picking out clothes and independently dressing himself - in the morning. We love W, and are all sad to lose his presence in our lives, but we are also grateful for the chance to have been in his life and to help him.  Even though we will miss him, we are also glad for the family experiences that were made richer because he was here. While Patrick and I, admittedly, have some worries in our hearts for what W's future may hold, we do believe that it is right that he be able to grow up surrounded by his own family members, as long as they are willing to care for him. My family and I will continue to pray that, though our time with him was short, that we made enough of a positive difference in his life to make a life-long impact toward good.  And I think we will, as a family, welcome the opportunity to continue trying to make a difference for children sent our way.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: What's in a Name?

Names are very personal, and at some point become part of our personal identity.  There are people who believe that a child's name, once given, should never be changed, and there are those who think that children under a certain age won't know, really, if their name is/was changed.  When my husband and I took classes to become foster/adoptive parents, this was discussed at length, and name changes were strongly discouraged.  It seemed that most of the people in the class were confidently opposed to name changes in any circumstance, except for a last-name change in the case of adoption.  Of course, for kids in foster care, name changes are forbidden (if/until adoption occurs), as the children in care are already confused enough without having their names changed.  Unfortunately, we accidentally ran into a name issue with W. We've been calling him by the name we were given for him...only to find out - six months later - that was NOT what anyone in his family was calling him. They were using a nickname, and never told us...and he lacked the language skills to tell us himself. However, since we have always called him by his legal first name, he has at least learned it, and can now tell someone what his name is.

Overall, I've always been (and probably will remain) undecided on the 'name-changing' issue. I  understand the need to not confusing our foster children - especially since they may very well return home - but adoption is different. It's important to recognize that changing a child's first name is very, very different than changing a child's last/middle name; and - at the very least - for any children our family adopts, their last names will be changed to match ours, which I think is true for the vast majority of adoptive parents. I do, however, think name changes certainly depend on the situation.  As often as I've been told about the negatives for name changes, there are definitely good reasons to change a name. A new name can mean a new beginning - which adoption certainly is - and there are other questions to consider.  What about a child who happens to be named after birthparent in prison?    What about an older child who wants a name change?  What about a child who has always gone by a nickname and would rather have that as a first name? From personal experience, the ability to change my maiden name and no longer be easily associated with my birthfather was an intense relief - and I wish my mother had done it for me years earlier. Some adoptive children may feel this way about their first names.  As a teacher, I can also attest that there are some truly unique issues that come with children's names.  My husband, last year, taught a little girl named "Female" (pronounced fe-MAH-lee)...though this is an extreme example, I don't think I could leave a child's name alone in this case.  If I had a child used to responding to"Female," I think I would at least change the spelling.

When Eli was adopted, my husband and I were open to the possibility of keeping or changing his name before receiving his referral. We tossed around some name possibilities, but waited until we knew what his Korean name was before deciding - ultimately - to change it.  His Korean name, though beautiful, was hard for English speakers to say correctly and was considered feminine to my Korean-American friends.  We nearly decided to make his Korean first name into his middle name, but eventually decided not to when we finalized his adoption. Eli knows his Korean name, and his full American name. We've explained to him that his name was changed when he became a permanent member of our family.  He has days when he only responds to his Korean name, days where he only responds to his nickname, and days where I have to holler his full name to get his attention.  Overall, at this age, he is very pleased with both of his names (American and Korean) and loves to hear the stories about how his names were given to him. Having a new name in a situation where EVERYTHING was new/different...including the language...didn't seem to faze him.

Though we've been told to expect W to return home, we actually did discuss renaming him in the event of adoption. This point is moot now, as I am actually waiting by the phone today to hear WHEN W will return home, rather than IF.  The hubs and I had already decided that since we took so many pains to teach his first name, and since his siblings all (now) know him by his first name, that we would not change it. With Itty Bitty, though, IF we ever got the chance to adopt him, we don't know if we would change his first name. We have been calling him by the first name he was given at birth - as well as a nickname derived from his birth name - and will continue to do so while he is in care. We have reasons both for and against a possible first name change. However, due to private circumstances that I cannot discuss online, we would absolutely change his middle/last names.

How about you?  Are names too personal to change or are there other circumstances in which names should be changed?

No Bohns About It