What Would You Do?

Here’s a little game I like to play from time to time called, “What Would You Do?”
All completely hypothetical (wink wink)…

Todays, WWYD…

What would you do if your foster daughter came home from a visit with her birth mom (first visit in over a month).

And your daughter is 18 months old…

And it is 36 degrees out and snowing…

That's right size 4! Reminder daughter is 18 months old

Reminder today in Wisconsin it is 36 degrees and snowing

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Imaginary Conversations with Birth Mom Today…and Biological vs Civil Right to Parent

Z was supposed to have a visit with birth mom today. And we had a scheduled CST meeting. I knew there was no way mom would make it to both meetings. Because, well, when you are jobless and have NOTHING to do all day it is really hard to make it across town in an hour and a half…

yeah, that’s sarcasm

Once I knew she did not make her court appointed visit (second week in a row. Last week she cancelled because it was “too cold”. For who? This is Wisconsin. You mean you get the option of opting out of “parenting” when it is cold?) I started having all these conversations in my head about what I would say to her if she was at the CST meeting or if she came late which is usually what she does.

My big conversation would have been like this, (after she walks in her usual 30 minutes to hour late):

“I’m sorry, but in the world I live in, the real world we need to be places on time. The world does not wait for us to arrive. If you have a sick kid and a Doctors appointment at 3:00pm and you show up at 3:20, guess what? You no longer have an appointment…and your sick kid does not get seen. I know it’s hard for you, being responsible for just yourself and all. YOUR only responsibilities are to:

  1. Wake up on time
  2. Participate in some type of hygiene
  3. Get to your appointment on time

My responsibilities include:

  1. Waking up on time
  2. showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed
  3. getting my children milk
  4. getting children changed and dressed
  5. getting children fed
  6. letting dogs out
  7. feeding dogs
  8. getting kids out the door and to day care
  9. working a full time job
  10. dragging my ass to the ghetto to go to a CST meeting that YOU arrive late to!

Yeah, I was bitter today. I was not in a good place. I get so wound up over this, I want to be done with this. Two years with this family and I have about had it. Granted I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about them so I can tell the kids quite a bit about the people who brought them to us…even some good things.

My whole tirade brought me to a philosophy that will cause me to now piss off a lot of readers (if I even have a lot of readers)…

Light bulb moment….Having children is a biological right NOT a Civil Right…this is my new opinion…hear me out…

We require people to get a license to operate a car. We make them prove they can financially purchase the car (if you get a loan etc.). We make them have insurance before they can drive. We make them prove in a written test and by physically operating a car that they can adequately drive a car safely. We make them learn the rules of the road. And if you are medically unsound, you cannot operate a car.

All because a car can be considered a “deadly weapon”, something that could cause someone else great bodily harm.

BUT there is NO test, no license to prove you can parent.

WHY NOT?

Why do we wait until something BAD happens for ‘ services to step in? What IF, instead of Home Economics in high school, you had to take a few serious parenting classes. And I’m not talking, the “keep your egg alive” crap here. That you had to get a license to parent. And if you did not, BAM children’s services takes your kid at birth.

Thats what I call early intervention. Because I am really sick of the state fighting for ‘parents’ civil rights to their kids. Because really, they likely never were a ‘parent’ to begin with. And I think once we got all convoluted in our thinking that just because our bodies CAN reproduce (our biological right) that we should fight to protect the parents rights before we fight to protect the childs rights.

DO YOU HAVE ANY idea how expensive it is for a state to go through the ‘ services route with a family? The number of professionals, lawyers, specialists, assistance that is provided? Do you know how long kids are left in limbo?

I know, I know, people are going to get all “But we need to be careful because the state could just come in and take our kids from us. There is nothing to stop them from making us a victim…blah blah big brother,blah blah.”

Bullshit! Children’s services does not take children for no reason. They do not have the money to do what they do now…they don’t work on commission, “Hey, Betty…how many babies did you detain today? ‘Seven!’ Wow, you totally are going to get the big bonus this month!” They are under paid, highly stressed people. Who want nothing less than to enter someones house and detain their “child”.

And I  am grateful to the birth mother of my kids, because out of her loss I gained. That whole paradox is still hard to grasp. But I think there are a whole lot of children who would be better off if we all had to be licensed like I do.

I have a license in my file cabinet that proves that my house is warm and safe. That I have utilities, running water, heat. That I have a refrigerator and food in it. That I have safe cribs for my kids to sleep in. That I have smoke detectors in every bedroom and on every floor of my house. That my closets and basements and garage have been inspected (every month for two years) to make sure I do not have exotic pets or torture devices in them. That I am emotionally, physically and financially able to provide. That I have insurance on my car. That I have health insurance for myself and my children. That my pets are all current on their rabies vaccinations. That I have a fire extinguisher. That I have emergency numbers posted. That I have locking bathroom doors. That I have bedrooms at least 8×8 wide for the children to sleep in. That I have a planned and mapped evacuation route for our house.

And I am not complaining…because really? Shouldn’t we ALL? You mean providing the above type of home is not on everyone’s list of “must do” or “must have”?

Driving a car is a privilege not a right.

Being a parent should be the same way!

The Children’s Court System Blows…

DEEP BREATH….EXHALE!

So, Staci takes off of work today, which for a college professor is not easy to do. We pack up our laptops, snacks, etc. and get prepared to hunker down for a long LONG day at Children’s Court, as you never know when you will get called, even though your stuff says 10:00 am. We get there, do some searching for which courtroom we belong in front of, I ask the lovely lady who you know had a crappy job and has to deal with crappy people asking her dumb questions all day long, if we are scheduled in this courtroom. She recalls the name from last week, Yes I tell her, there was a pre-trial last week. She then tells me the Jury Trail was rescheduled for May….MAY! No one told us! This by the way, is the third time court has been rescheduled!

This has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • Mom has more time to screw up, miss visits, etc.
  • We don’t have to think about it right now.
  • It will make the 2 year mark closer (children in foster care have to have permanency by 2 years).

Disadvantages:

  • We want to move to California and cannot do this until Zoe is officially ours.
  • The waiting is painful.
  • Technically gives mom more time to get her crap together.

So  much of me is so angry with this system. I get so angry because it is so painfully close to my heart. I get angry because children are involved. I say to Staci that so much of me wants to wash my hands of this system completely once this is all over…the other part of me feels like I need to stay involved to try to make a difference. What to do?

For now, breathe in…breathe out…repeat…

Tomorrow is the start of a scary week…

Yes, tomorrow is a really scary day around here. Tomorrow is day one (of we don’t know how many) of the jury trial for Zoe’s birthmom to try to take away her rights, better known in the Foster care system as TPR (Terminating Parental Rights). Zoe has been with us since she was two days old, she is now 16 months old. We are the only moms she has ever known, even though she sometimes has her court appointed visit with her birthmom once a week for 2 hours (or until mom has had enough). I really have been putting this whole thing out of my head because it’s just too difficult to process.

I want to soothe my soul and say to myself, “Of course the jury will TPR, of course they will” But we don’t know that…and it’s that which is too painful to think about. Zoe has been a tremendously difficult baby, nothing like her brother. She had colic for the first 6-7 months of her life, cried 6 hours straight, ate every 1.5 hours and to this day continues to be a rather spirited child. We have made huge strides. But she quite honestly was the baby that made us see just how a horrible thing like shaken baby could happen. Because had we not been educated, patient people with a solid sense of restraint you could see where there is a slippery slope between being at your wits end and tired to shaking a baby. NOT that I condone it in any way but rather I understand how it happens in some cases. I still think it is horribly wrong.

I have had this tiny kernel of doubt in my head that says maybe she has been difficult, harder to bond with because she is not going to stay with us. And then I quickly stop  myself from thinking that because I am afraid that just by thinking it I will make it so…I have no doubt in my mind that Zoe would be dead had she been in her birth home when she was an infant.

Carter and Zoe are bonded, they are tight. They ask about each other (Zoe can’t talk yet but she motions to his empty car seat etc) and ask about each other when they are not together. They take each other snacks and milk…they share…and they fight. I worry not only for my relationship and my sanity if Zoe is reunited with her mother but for my legal son. I get sad thinking of the possibility of it and then I get angry.

I get angry that someone elses parental right can trump mine. That someone elses parental right can trump my sons right to his sister and to happiness.

Tomorrow I will go to court and sit outside of a closed courtroom, one that I am not privy to because it is family court. When Carters birthmom’s rights were terminated she didn’t even cry. She didn’t get mad…nothing. I will completely fall apart if things do not work out with this case.

I let myself think about the scariness for a bit before I turn it off as best I can. And I imagine what Zoe’s life would be like without us, back with her. I imagine her not eating well. Not getting the same attention. Not getting the same chances and opportunities in life. NOT getting the chance to reach her full potential. I don’t know how I would go on without her…not knowing how she would be doing, if she was warm, safe or with a full belly. And now I am crying because I am thinking for a minute of that possibility.

Mom has made some improvements and it’s really a matter of perspective regarding what someone, namely a jury, thinks is enough to be fit to parent. Turns out your parental rights are  your most protected of all civil rights. I really wish I could go to bed with enough faith in the judicial and childrens court system to say I knew for sure what would happen. But I don’t have that faith in the system.

Just last week we got an email from our new caseworker, she is leaving the department. In two years we have had 7 caseworkers. It is really a sad messed up system. And I really just want to be done with this part of it all. I never really felt a sigh of relief in knowing that Carter is officially ours because things are unfinished with Zoe. Our family is not complete without her. I could go on and on…bottom line is I don’t know what will happen but I know what I NEED to have happen.

Please think positive thoughts for us this week.

What a Day This Turned Out to Be!

Zoe did not have visits with her birth mom until she was 8 months old…and now for the past few months “mom” has decided that it’s really fun to play dolly with Zoe and has been having 2 hour visits, supervised for the past few months…skipping a few, when you know, she oversleeps (being jobless and all it’s hard to get places on time). She has been saying she wanted to take Zoe on her visit her birthday week to get photos taken. And she actually followed through this time. So the visit worker drove her to what I am assuming is Wal*mart, etc. Well, her visit is from noon – 2:00 pm, at 2:30 day care called me to tell me Zoe had not returned yet. My stomach dropped, my pulse shot up! I called my caseworker got voicemail saying she was out for the day. Called caseworkers supervisor, got his vm and he never returned my call. I tracked down the company that does visits and got the cell phone of the worker, called her, and she did not answer. I jumped in my car, sped off and had every intention of sitting in the day care parking lot so that when she DID return with my daughter I could bust out the biggest can of WHOOP ASS you have ever seen…I called day care on my way asking if she was back yet…she was, Staci was now there too and I said, “You tell Staci that she is NOT to leave until she finds out where the Hell my daugher has been and why she is late!”

Welcome to the foster system! You can never reach someone in an emergency. I didn’t know what to do, I left ranting messages on my caseworkers voicemail, tomorrow should be interesting…

I went on about responsibility, accountability, professionalism…and how in my world you don’t get to just be late…be unaccountable for your actions, be unprofessional! How am I supposed to be comfortable on thursdays knowing that when my daughter is not in day care and not with me she is with a “professional” who cannot keep on schedule OR pick up a god damned cell phone and tell someone they will be late…that for 40 minutes my precious cargo was unaccounted for.

I work with dogs for a living and I can guarantee you that if I were to be late bringing a dog home, I would call…CALL! I would apologize for being late, I would not blame it on the proximity of the photo place chosen. (Because, fyi, it doesn’t take more than a half hour to get anywhere in Milwaukee, so that is a load of shit!)

I don’t think anyone has any clue the thoughts that ran through my mind today…or how glad I was to see my little girl when I got home…

or how pissed this Mamma bear can get when you f*$! with her cubs!

My Daughter Came Home all “Ghetto”

The bane of my existence right now are the once a week for 2 hours, supervised visitation our foster daughter has with her "mother". Our daughter is African American and I have been dreading this day…she is almost one and today she left our home with two cute pig tails in her hair, only to return with a head full of "grease" and 4 pony tails in her hair. Seriously? Now, this is where some may not agree with me…I was warned that this is a huge HUGE thing in the African American community…hair…but I have read tons in the past two years AND spoke with hair professionals and the truth, TRUTH is, that "grease" and crazy pony tail styles are NOT needed…it does not, "train" their hair…"grease" does not need to be applied to the scalp to make the hair softer…I am so sick of all this crap, which is basically folklore…it's what my "momma" did…etc.

Now, I embrace the fact that my children are black…I do…I know that hair is a huge part of identity and that is why I will maintain their hair with pride and make sure NOT to straighten it or anything that would make their hair different or damage it…but the "grease" and 900,000 hair pieces in their hair to me is crap. Its down right cruel.

We have books we read our children about african american hair and people…and knowing that our son is going to be a huge baseball player (I'm telling you this kid can run so fast and throw a ball with such accuracy it is scary) so we have already talked about making sure he is very educated on the Negro league, etc.

But this hair thing…I'm not buying it! And you tell me that if you put "grease" all in your hair and then went to bed at night it wouldn't rub off all over your sheets and then all over your face..that cannot be good.

I actually got into it yesterday at a CST meeting with "birthmom". Her visits have not been going well, and I had to sit and listen to how Z cries most of the two hours…and how mom needs to be prompted on when to pick her up and how etc…my blood was boiling…and then I had to hear about how she insisted on doing her hair, even though I had it up perfectly acceptable and cute…and Z was crying and she, even after her coaches told her to just leave it as she clearly was not happy about it…she insisted on doing her hair…I lost it…

She went on to say Z's hair was "nappy"…OH NO was I going to let her get away with that…I said, "Excuse me, that is NOT fair of you to say, nor is it accurate, you need to take that back because her hair is NOT nappy." She repeated (as if she were 4) "It's nappy"…I said, "NO, I know what nappy is and her hair is not nappy…you can comb through it at any time…it is dry but not nappy." Seriously WTF!

You see Z has a list of OT exercises we gave "birthmom" to work on with her during her visits…hard to find time to do those if you are spending time doing hair don't cha think? I nicely said, "What I would like to see for Z is for her to have help with her exercises during her visits instead of her hair done, as her hair is already done and her exercises are more important." She got very defensive and said, "I DO her exercises." (which two minutes ago she had said she sometimes does them) and I pushed…nicely…

I called her out on her shit is what I did. I was sick of her "I bore this child I know everything about her" shit…because truth be told, she has NEVER asked me a single thing about Z…she has asked me for photos and about her hair…NEVER has she asked me her favorite song, how I calm her down when she is upset…because she THINKS that she has some COSMIC connection because this child came out of her.

I nicely said, "I'm just trying to give you ideas to help you have better visits with Z"…to which she said, "I have nice visits. I know, I'm her mother…I know how to take care of her…I KNOW!" and I said, "Oh you know everything huh?"

THEN THE KICKER CAME…out of nowhere she yells, "YOU LIED TO ME!" I was like "WHAT?" I have NEVER LIED to you, when did I lie to you?" 

To which she says, "In court…" and she goes on to mention part of my testimony from last June…June of 2008! In the case her son we adopted…I was like, "IS THAT what this is all about? You're mad because we adopted your son?"

It was a complete mind Fu&% of a day…but in a way I am glad I flushed that response out of her…it just proves more that she does not change, she does not accept help or guidance because she thinks she knows what she is doing…

Ugh

I hope this is over with and in our favor VERY VERY soon! I have had just about enough of this woman!

Doing our part…

We are doing our part as best we can to try to make life easier for other lesbian/gay couples out there fostering/adopting. We will next week be working with the company that is producing the training videos for the foster system here. They will be interviewing and filming us for the training series that sounds like it will be used through out the US…kinda cool yet I just realized that some people I know may actually end up watching this video which feels weird. But they are finally actually promoting Lesbians/Gays in their training and literature…