Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Itty Bitty is WALKING!!

We are SO excited!!  The title says it all :).

But as always, there's a backstory!

Those who have been around for a while will remember that I scoffed when Itty Bitty failed an early intervention screening at around 6 months of age (and again at almost 8 months). I didn't understand how serious his problems were at the time...and in hindsight I am extremely grateful for the knowledgeable professionals who worked with us and helped us through the evaluation process.

Itty Bitty has several diagnoses that affect his physical development. We'd been told that he would likely walk around age 2, but of course, there were no guarantees...and we were told to expect leg braces and/or a walker to be a part of his life.  We were also told that our best chance of taking advantage of the plasticity of a baby's brain - and therefore as much progress as possible - was intense intervention. He has been involved in intense therapy since his diagnoses, and currently has 4 therapists (for whom I am also very grateful) that work with him regularly to help him develop skills (he has 3-4 hours a week of therapy, plus exercises that are completed at home and at daycare). He's had some setbacks, but has made TONS of progress.

In June, a month after turning 1, he began rolling over consistently. Later the same week, he figured out how to get into a sitting position and how to crawl. Shortly after, at 14 months, he began to try self-feeding. He took his first independent step - quite by accident - at the end of August, at his first session with his child-life specialist, and promptly sat down. Last month, at 15 months, he learned how to pull up, and he began taking steps with adapted (weighted) push toys. Then, he began cruising a LOT at the beginning of October, and he began to get into a standing position and stand without support for a few seconds. Climbing came next, and he quickly became a pro at climbing anything he could get his knee on, or that he could step up on (he also discovered how to find, move, and stand on objects to reach things that were intended to be OUT of reach...).

BUT - until today - walking had been an elusive skill. He had developed the skill of walking while holding on to an object or a hand, but could not figure out how to move his feet without some support. We went to a physical therapy session, where we were going to be playing a game to help him with standing balance. Just as we started, he took two steps...mostly by accident...but didn't fall.  He was surprised - and very excited. For the rest of his therapy session, he attempted walking over and over again, by his own choice.  We tried to have him take some breaks, but he was determined to practice and to see what he could do.  By the end of the session, I was thrilled to see him take as many as 8 steps in a row without losing his balance.

Itty Bitty still requires special shoes, and may need some assistive devices as he gets a little older...but he is making INCREDIBLE progress!

Praise be for this beautiful and amazing progress in the midst of our other trials.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Foster Care Disrpution

Image result for foster care

I am not/was not prepared for the reactions I'm getting from the people who have heard that we are planning to disrupt Sunny's placement in our home. I've searched the web for other stories of foster parents that I could relate to, and there aren't many out there. In the hopes that this post may one day help another family, and to promote understanding of why a family might disrupt a foster care placement, I thought I might give a little more information about what's going on in our family.

We've never disrupted a placement of a child before. When we first started this journey, I never expected or wanted to. In fact, the purpose of this journey was to help children in our community and to (hopefully) be able to adopt a second child, if/when one (or more) of our foster children became available for adoption. In training, where all of the almost-foster-parents were assured of support if/when we had difficulties, it was briefly mentioned that kids could be moved if a situation became severe, and that we would have the full support of our agency. At the time, we just listened politely and assumed that we could handle anything that a child as young as Sunny could/would do - and we would be a great foster family for any infant/toddler that came along.

When we first mentioned to our agency that things weren't working out with Sunny, they brushed us off, and tried to reassure us that everything would be fine. P and I, while we had originally taken Sunny with the hopes of one day adopting her, had already extensively discussed disruption, and we came to the conclusion that it might be in everyone's best interests.  The anguish and grief that we felt was palpable. I've always wanted several children, and the idea of not only losing Sunny - but choosing not to parent her - was unthinkable at first.  But, the reality is that Sunny needs more therapy and more care than we are able to provide, and her presence in our home is potentially dangerous to Eli and Itty Bitty.

We brought up the topic of disruption again with our agency a few weeks later, after our P's parents informed us that they would no longer be willing to babysit for Sunny following a major incident in their home. P's parents are extremely calm, competent and experienced parents, especially considering their previous foster care experiences. This now meant that her only babysitters would be other foster parents...and only when they had availability (which is rare). Again, we were told by a worker that her behavior was "normal for a child who'd experienced extreme trauma" and that we would be fine...but in the same conversation (and after a 3 hour observation in our home), we were told that Itty Bitty needed to have his bed moved to Eli's room because they were concerned for his safety at night.

When we requested (and got!) respite last week, it was wonderful - for us AND for Sunny. It was also confirmation for our family that Sunny's presence was harder on us and on our boys than we ever realized, and that to foster her for many more months wouldn't be what was best for anyone. Our agency was somewhat confused when we requested another respite week in November....and they finally began to understand that we were very serious with what we'd been saying for the last two months...that Sunny wasn't doing well. Sunny's behavior is a result of extreme trauma - and not likely to improve overnight. At this point, her therapy services had been dropped (without my knowledge), and no one bothered to tell me for nearly a month. Her caseworker hasn't been to our home since July. Visits with relatives were going seemingly well, but were resulting in escalated behaviors (and severely regressed behaviors) in our home. Dealing with direct, frequent - and almost always dishonest - criticism about anything and everything from her parent has become the norm. And to top it off, we haven't been to church in two months, because Sunny doesn't do very well there. It's exhausting....especially when we felt like we needed a break after Scooter (and didn't get one).

Last night, I got a call that showed me that our agency is finally taking us seriously...and they are VERY unhappy with our family's efforts to disrupt. There was no sympathy for our situation or thanks for stretching ourselves to take care of her and to help her for the last 6 months. There was no concern on their part about the effect she's had on our boys, and my concerns were met with disdain. The exact same people who promised to be supportive in situations like this are completely rejecting us. The caller last night, who is not a parent OR a foster parent, was very cold and angry, and managed to sneak a few thinly veiled insults into the conversation.  I was grossly unprepared for that.

I've also been unprepared for others' responses. For example, Sunny's preschool teacher was very upset when she found out. She knew we might disrupt, and had previously been supportive of us. When she found out today that we were following through with a disruption, she became very, very upset with us, saying "Why in the world would I have put all this work into helping her, if you're just sending her somewhere else?!"  I would have hoped she worked with her because it's what Sunny needed to grow as a person.

Thankfully, our family has wrapped around us and has been extremely supportive. They've seen Sunny from the beginning and are VERY understanding...most of our family members have been encouraging us to disrupt for several months now, and don't understand why we didn't ask to move her even earlier. The sunshiney, spirited little girl who came to us six months ago has repeatedly demonstrated that she is struggling with extreme grief, anger, and confusion, and I feel like she's getting lost in the system. I hope and pray that her upcoming move is to a home that will be better able to meet her needs.

No Bohns About It