Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kidlet Updates

Lil Sis:

We seem to be making progress with Lil Sis's behaviors. She has had a few breakthroughs lately. As is usually the case, these were surrounded by acute crisis & meltdowns. However, after intense work with her therapist & following through with new techniques consistently, things seem to be leveling out.

She's still reluctant to deal with a lot of the underlying issues & trauma directly. However, she has gotten to the point that we can address some of the topics generally, without shutting down. This is HUGE progress. After staffing it with additional therapists that specialize in the specific issues we were dealing with, her therapist has started employing some new techniques. Because Lil Sis is actively participating in therapy now & seems to be making progress, her therapist is planning to hold off on recommending any move for her.

Also, the CW finally came for a visit on Tuesday. The last one was mid-September, despite the fact that they are required to lay eyes on the children every 30 days. In any event, since his last visit has made Lil Sis not want to be around him, I had him come over when her therapist would be here. She still didn't want to talk to him (and I don't blame her), but it helped her to not shut down as badly & to not get too upset, which was very positive. The CW still doesn't seem to see that he was out of line in any way or that what he did is the reason that Lil Sis no longer wants to be in the same room as him. The therapist plans to meet with him to discuss children & trauma, as well as Lil Sis's particular needs.


The Boys:

As I mentioned previously, after their visit with their dad, my oldest two boys went to spend a few days with my parents. Both managed to kill deer, one of which was given to my grandparents & the other is now in my freezer. The boys were so happy to be contributing to the family. Baby Boy is so happy to have them home now, though. He went through the house, calling their names every day that they were gone.


Beautiful:

She's getting along better with Lil Sis, which is always good. However, she's been struggling with the issues with her Dad. She says that, during their visit, he told her that he would see them over Thanksgiving. To allow a visit over Thanksgiving would have been completely against court orders, so it was simply not an option. So, I got to have a fun conversation with her about that. It's not easy to explain that what she was promised by her Dad is an impossibility, while also trying to make certain to not say anything negative or to point out that he was lying. At almost 8, it's not easy to convince her that "it must have been some sort of misunderstanding", but I tried my best to break it to her gently.

Since their visit, he has called a few times. When he called last Tuesday, she asked him if I were telling her the truth when I told her that he had a girlfriend (thank goodness I did, since they apparently thought springing her on the kids during a visit, with no explanation whatsoever, was a good idea). He confirmed it & told her that she & her kids live with him. She told me all of this & seemed to be happy that I had told her the truth because, she explained, that, even though she was pretty sure that I wouldn't lie to her, she wasn't sure because didn't understand why her Dad hadn't told her any of this. I consoled her by telling her that he probably just didn't know how to explain it  to them. That explanation seemed to satisfy her.

The next time he called, however, she was sobbing after hanging up. It took a good ten minutes for her to calm down enough to actually talk, so she could tell me what was wrong. Apparently this was the first time she heard the kids & the gf in the background, while she was talking to her dad on the phone. She just kept saying that she doesn't see how he can spend time with them & take care of them but not even come see his kids very often. Sigh. I tried my best to validate her feelings and let her know that it's ok to talk to me whenever she needed to. Unfortunately, I can't fix it, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes I just wish it were possible to make others do the right thing.

Its been several days since he called, so she's calmed down & doing fine for now. It remains to be seen how this whole process of reintegrating him into their lives goes, assuming he actually follows through with it this time. I have sent my request for what should go in the Transition, Safety & Visitation Plan to his attorney. I'm sure he'll have some objections, it is his job to make things as easy on his client as possible, after all. However, I didn't ask for anything outlandish or unreasonable. That's more than just my opinion, btw. I ran it by two different LPCs & and an attorney before it was sent. In fact, my attorney wanted a few of the points written more rigidly, but I declined. I'm trying to keep everything focused on what is best for the kids, not what is more convenient for any or all of the adults involved.

I was rather annoyed at Wasband's attorney, at the court date. He seemed to be trying to characterize my insistence that the gf not be allowed to transport the children or that they not be left alone with her until after they have developed a relationship with her as an attempt to keep her away from the kids. It's actually not that at all. I knew her growing up. I know her family. I've never heard anything about her that would give me reason to be concerned about her being around the kids. In fact, it's quite the opposite. So, I'm not trying to keep them away from her. I do, however, want them to have the opportunity to get to know her, so that they are comfortable with her.

Also, I think their dad needs to start being responsible for his relationship with his children. I am concerned that, if she were allowed to facilitate visits, transport the kids & supervise the children, that they would end up spending almost no actual time with their dad & she would end up being a glorified baby sitter for him. If that is what visits turn into, then they are pointless, because they are intended to be for the kids to spend time with & have a relationship with their father. Btw, for those that are involved in their lives: feel free to tell them what I said (yes, I can see when you visit the blog). I'd love for him to prove me wrong & become an involved father again.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Nickel's Worth of Common Sense...& a whole lot of love!

I posted this on the blog's FB page, but thought I'd make an entry, since they don't always have the same audience (which seems odd to me, but that's another matter...).

 

My friend Jen, author of A Nickel's Worth of Common Sense, and her family were featured in a news segment about adoption from foster care. Watch the video. I completely relate to Jen, when she talks about the ignorant comments that they receive. I also love Tanner's remark about not knowing what a "fake" sibling looks like.


The Nickel family is one of many adoptive families in Williams Lake and across North America honouring Adoption Awareness Month this November.

http://youtu.be/b0JxTki3kQk


Over the past ten years, several thousand children in Canada have found permanency through adoption into new families. Citizenship and Immigration Canada reports that in 2010 there were 1,968 international adoptions and in BC, the latest statistics available from 2007 point to almost 300 children that were adopted from the foster care system.

Due to their family's large size and multi-racial make-up, the Nickel's often find themselves educating the community on adoption and foster care year-round. "We are visible where ever we go! laughs Jennifer Nickel, the busy mother 7 children ranging in age from 8 months to 19 years. "A real life billboard for growing your family through adoption."

A former foster family, and now a complete adoptive family, the Nickels take seriously the responsibility to offer accurate information for those interested in adopting or fostering. With a dose of reality, Jennifer notes, "It is a tragic truth that not all children can be raised in their family of origin and as such it is very important for adoptive and foster parents to be prepared and educated on how they can best meet the needs of their children."

Support for all members of adoptive families, including biological parents, is available through organizations like the Adoptive Families Association of BC (www.bcadoption.com), as well as in-person or online support groups. Specialized groups, like the Harambee Society, (www.harambee.ca) provide specific support for multi-racial families. The Nickels are committed to all their children having a real understanding of their cultural heritages, and it is apparent in their connection to local the First Nations communities. When questioned as to why those relationships are so important to her, Jennifer states, "We aren't just the white parents of multi-racial kids, we all are part of a First Nation and African-Canadian family and we integrate that reality into our everyday lives".

The visibility for multi-racial families has its drawbacks and Jennifer took the time to offer some advice for those people who might be curious about multi-racial families in the community. "The most important foundation for any child growing up is a sense of belonging and connection. When people question that connection by asking the child about their past, or questioning the legitimacy of their connection to the people they love -- it violates that child's right to security and privacy."

Tanner, the Nickel's 16 year old biological son states that he is often asked if his older brothers or little sisters are his 'real siblings.' "What does a fake brother or a fake sister look like exactly?" jokes Tanner. "Of course all my brothers and sisters are my real brothers and sisters," he continues. "We are a real family and our love each other is real. That ... that is what makes us brothers and sisters."

Those interested in growing their families through adoption can contact the Adoptive Families Association of BC 1-877-ADOPT-07 and those families interested in fostering can contact the BC Foster Parents Association at 1-800-663-9999.


LOVE these people! Big family, with a LOT of love!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Maybe things will even out a little now...

This week has been utterly exhausting. Work has been crazy busy (which is a good thing), plus I had two court appearances of my own. Tuesday I got custody orders for the baby. His father is angry about this, of course, & says it was unnecessary. However, there were simply too many threats to take him away from me, so I needed to do this to take away some of that leverage.

Friday was the Wasband's contempt trial, as well as a hearing about modifying child support. His excuse for being over $33k behind in support & not having paid any of the debts that he agreed to take in the divorce decree was that he has another family to support, so can't afford it (he's got a gf & her two kids). Needless to say, he was found guilty of contempt, but he got lucky. The courthouse was shutdown early because of a winter storm (Oklahoma isn't used to real winter weather so the smallest amount of snow or sleet & they roll up the streets), so there wasn't time for his sentencing hearing. The declaration of an emergency also meant that the deputies didn't take him into custody on the bench warrant that he already has from another legal matter. However, sentencing has been scheduled for January & the judge made it clear that he has to make a significant showing of trying to correct these issues prior to that date is he wants to avoid going to jail.

So, let me pause for a moment to give some legal/life advice:
When you already have children, your choice to support your new significant other's children is not an excuse to stop supporting yours.

I want to shake people every time I hear the "but I have a new family to support" excuse (and I've had to set clients straight on this). Using your money to take care of them is not the same thing as being unable to afford your child support. Those children have parents & their parents are responsible for providing for them. Your responsibility is to support yours. So, if you choose to help support your new partner & their family, you need to remember that your first obligation is to your children & your other priorities need to be arranged around & balanced with that. Also, having more children still doesn't excuse you from responsibility of the ones you already had. You knew they existed before you chose to have more.

So, to all the people out there that do this foolishness: knock it off. The courts won't buy it & neither will any thinking person.


That said I, don't understand being with someone that chooses not to support their children, either. Whenever I've dated a man with kids, if he wasn't doing everything he could to be as involved as he possibly could as a father, he was not the type of man I wanted & I moved on very quickly. There's no way I can stay with a man who wasn't even trying or was making such ridiculous excuses because it reveals something about their character & who they are at their core. Idk...maybe they believe the excuses...or maybe they think the good balances that out...we all have different standards, I suppose.

In any event, it was shown that I did NOT unreasonable keep the children from him, as I was being accused of. I believe that there is no excuse for refusing visitation or interfering in that relationship, unless the person is a danger. He had, by his own choice, not completed the requirements the court had placed on him to have visitation. So, he actually didn't have any visitation rights.

Even so, I have never refused him a visit. In fact, there were times when I did without so that I could use what little money I had to drive the kids down to see him. I used to call & beg & cry for him to spend time with them, with mixed results. So, I finally acknowledged that I couldn't force him to do the right thing & I told him to just let me know when he wanted them. My request is to give me some advanced notice so that we can coordinate schedules, because some prior obligations can't be cancelled for a last second promise of a visit (especially given the history of no-shows).

In any event, the judge is saying that a schedule needs to be constructed, which makes me deliriously happy. I have tried for a schedule for so long because it's shown that the predictability goes such a long way for kids. He also has to formulate some sort of safety plan to submit to show how supervision, sleeping arrangements, etc. will work, since there is a 13 y/o girl & a 10 y/o boy already in the house. So, wish me luck, as we (well, mostly the attorneys) will be figuring the details of how all of this is going to work, in the days to come.

That evening, the kids got to visit their dad, which was good. He hasn't been asking for visits, even when he was in town for court or to see his attorney, so I was kind of surprised. But, I was happy to take them & let them have time with him. This was also the first time for them to meet his gf, but it seems to have gone pretty well. Thankfully, I had told them that their dad has a gf, because he had never told them, so they weren't blindsided when she was there.

Overall, the visit seemed to have gone well. My only concern was the Beautiful ended up (according to her) spending most of the time with his gf "looking at girl stuff", while her Dad was looking at stuff with the boys. I'm glad his gf (I really need to think of a name for her, because I hate having too keep just calling her his gf, like she's just a title, not a person) & she were getting along & things were going well in that respect, but I worry about the fact that he wasn't as engaged with her. This, of course, is from her 7 y/o perspective & he may not have realized how it appeared to her. Unfortunately, he does not wish to communicate with me (I haven't even had a working phone number for him in months) so I can't convey it to him. So, I hope she eventually feels comfortable enough to tell him that she needs more connection from him.

After the visit, the two oldest boys (10 & 12) went home with my parents, so that they can go hunting. So, I'll miss them while they're gone, but I'm glad they are getting to have fun. I'm grateful that my parents are so involved with my kids. That has been invaluable during the time that The Bigs' father was disconnected (assuming he's really going to follow through with getting back in their lives, as he says). I will be traveling the three hours to my parents' house for Thanksgiving & will get my boys back then. Their baby brother will be so happy to see them again. He spent an hour walking around, calling their names last night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Numb

Right now, I should be getting everyone together & ready to leave so that I can go participate in a sweat lodge. It has been a few years since I have been to a sweat & I have been trying to get to one for MONTHS now. But I am letting myself be so affected by all that is going on in my life right now that I can't go.

I'm so full of anger & negativity & I just can't seem to let it go. I've prayed. I've smudged. I've cried.

I'm simply not in a place where I can be around other people today, much less participate in any sort of ceremony. And that makes me feel immensely grieved. I know that those amazing ladies will pray for me & my little family...but I wanted so bad to be there.

Quite honestly, I don't even want to see sunlight today. I haven't stepped out of my house so far this weekend. I have the young ones laying down for nap time right now, while I sit alone in my bedroom. The lights are off & the blackout curtains are drawn.

I don't know how I feel. I'm trying to not be angry. But the reality it, if I had the emotional energy to invest into it, I would be livid. I hate the situation that has been created for Lil Sis. I hate that I was powerless to stop it or change it, even though I saw so much of this coming years ago.

Right now, though, I'm drained & numb. Don't get me wrong, I'll be ok. I'll get up & take care of all my babies...but I'm in survival mode right now & that is not an optimal way to live.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am really struggling today.


I can't go into details because of foster care confidentiality. However, the longer Lil Sis is here, the more it becomes evident that all the things I feared over the years are reality.

I had been reluctant to accept placement, initially, because I was concerned that placing her in a crowded home (therapist often call kids in large families "crowded children" because exclusive attention & personal space is at a premium), as well as the fact that it would be an out-of-birth-order placement. For those who aren't accustomed to the lingo, that means accepting a placement of a child that is older than the youngest child in the home.

This sort of arrangement places the smaller child at risk if there is aggressive behavior. Likewise, having so many kids so close in age, can increase issues if the placement acts out sexually, as that can be directed at any child, not just the younger. I could go on about the risks, but I think I've made my point.

However, when it became clear that she was going to have to move from her old placement, I was happy to make room for her here because it was the best that could be made out of the situation as it existed.

The longer she is here, and the more therapy she undergoes, the more issues that are coming to the surface. Don't get me wrong, none of my kids are in any immediate danger. She as line of site supervision at all times. However, it is now at a point where her therapist & I have to decide whether or it is best for her to stay here or move to another home, where she can be an only child.

We've know that her issues were deep, because she spent almost 5 years in that environment. It took that long to get her to where she is mentally & emotionally, and it will take at least that long to make significant progress with helping to repair the damage. But, with therapy, the long term looks positive & she is on target developmentally. So, now that it appears that her case may be moving towards permanency, it is time to decide what is ultimately the best permanent living situation for her.

Ideally, the absolute best arrangement, given the facts as they are currently, is for her to be in an ICWA compliant home that would keep her involved with us but where she could be an only child. That way, she wouldn't lose us, and especially not her sister. It would also give her a safe place where she can have individual attention and there would be no other young children around that she can act out on. So, it could be a way to ensure that everyone is safe while she can get the help she needs to address all that she's been through.

However, that is a best case scenario. ICWA compliant homes can be hard to come by. There are quite a few open for adoption, but not as many that are willing to take a legal risk placement. Add to that the factors or being willing to keep the sibling contact & keeping her an only child, and preferably a home that is therapeutic home & the odds of finding the ideal placement seem long. I will be having a meeting with the therapist, which will be followed up by a conversation with the ICW CW, to see what the possibilities are because, while I am technically the 2nd best of all possible options...I may be the best of all available options.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to her being placed in a non-Native home, so long as they are willing to keep her connected to the tribe. However, our tribe has made it clear that they have plenty of adoptive homes, so she will be placed in one of them...the real question is whether it's possible to find an appropriate placement, timing, etc. We want to make sure there aren't multiple moves and that, if she does ultimately move from my home, that there is a healthy transition and ongoing involvement. Honestly, the thought of having her leave my home breaks my heart. However, if we find a placement that is better suited for her individual needs, I will definitely allow it for her sake.

What I'm really struggling with, today, is the emotions of it all. I am broken hearted, knowing what Lil Sis has been through. I am also very angry because, had DHS removed her at birth, as originally planned, none of this would have ever happened. All of this was predictable. I talk, I screamed, I told them that this is what would happened. I was brushed aside. I was accused of trying to take her child because I just wanted to steal her baby. In reality, the entire family had proven on multiple occasions that they were not fit to care for children. My God, that's why I was already parenting her older sister. That's why she wasn't in a family placement. But they sent the new baby home anyway.  And, now, here we are...

Truth is, I blame DHS (the system & the individuals who made the decisions) for the things that Lil Sis has gone through as much as I blame her actual abusers. Actually, her abusers probably have no real concept of what they were doing to her because they were wrapped up in themselves. The people responsible for the welfare of children don't have ANY excuse. They knew the damage that could result by subjecting a child to the unchecked pattern of behavior that occurs in this family, yet they chose to NOT protect this child. It makes me sad. It makes me angry.

I have to fight hard not to hate all the people that contributed to putting Lil Sis in harms way...not because they aren't deserving of such animosity, but because it takes too much energy & would poison my life with negativity. Today, I'm losing this fight more than I am winning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why is it so hard to get help?

I've been trying to get Beautiful speech therapy since she was 2. DHS did nothing to help & our options for providers were limited by living in an isolated area. Once she turned 3, interventions were the responsibility of the school district. I pushed & pushed until we managed to get an intake. Yes, she clearly has delays (she didn't speak until she was almost 3)...but she wasn't delayed ENOUGH for them to give her help. So, I continued to do everything I could figure out how to do at home. The gap closes a bit more each year, but she still needs helps.

She's also showing signs of dyslexia. I asked her school to test her last year. They told me they wanted to try various interventions first. "It's a process", they said, & we had to show that the interventions weren't enough. So...we did that.

This year, I requested the testing again. BUT...they want to try the interventions again...despite the fact that she is clearly getting farther behind. "It's a process", they say. I swear, if I hear that phrase again, I'm going to need bail money...

So, I march into the office of the person who is responsible for setting up the testing, only to find out that they don't even evaluate for dyslexia. WHAT!?! I've been asking about this for a year & no one has even bothered to tell me that it's an option?!

Had I known this, I would have gotten her outside evals last year! In any event, I've gotten the number of a place that supposedly has a short waiting list for evals. Hopefully I can get her in quickly & get in touch with an Advocate so that we can get an ISP in place.

Honestly, it should not be this hard to get help for kids. Education is important & we shouldn't be forcing these kids to get farther behind before they can get the support they need to learn.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You need a husband!

This past weekend was a long one!

First issue:

    I allowed my oldest to set up a FaceBook page for the sole purpose of connecting with his dad's family. Since I filed to enforce his child support order, many have blocked me on FaceBook, which was the only way that we had to contact them. And, since Wasband hasn't been visiting the kids, he (obviously) hasn't been taking them to see any of that side of their family. We used to live near many of them and saw them on a regular basis, so he misses them. So, I let him friend them on FaceBook.

Now, to get to the problem...

    We have a routine of taking family photos every few years. So we have 3 sets, two that were taken prior to the divorce, and one of me with my 5 kidlets. These photos mean a lot to my oldest. In fact, he carries them in his wallet with him. Well, he posted them to FB & tagged his dad & I in each photo that we were in. Wasband denied the tag on the photos that he is in so that they do not appear on his FB page. This hurt our son very badly. There's not much I can do about it, though I really wish I could.


The bigger issue:

     Beautiful (7) told me that I need a husband so that I won't be alone when I get old. She also asked me if I could talk her dad into remarrying me or ask him to come stay with us for a while. It turned into a long, drawn out conversation that boils down to the fact that (according to her) she asked her father if he could come see them & he told her that I wouldn't let him. She says that he told her it's my fault that he doesn't see them because I won't let him.

     I sincerely hope that she misunderstood & that this is the product of her interpretation, rather than what he actually said. However, he has filed a motion with the court accusing me of unreasonably withholding the children from him, which lends itself to the idea that she is being completely accurate about what was said and that makes me sad.


    Another interesting issue that arises frequently is the fact that she seems to connect her Dad choosing to not spend time with them with her with her mother not being in her life. It makes sense, I suppose. She already wonders about her mother & has questions. She also knows that she was adopted because her mother made choices that made it unsafe for her to live there. Now, her father is making hurtful choices, as well. So, it makes sense that it would bring out the questions that she already has.

     Honestly, I don't have any idea how to deal with this. I listen & talk to her honestly. I also listen to what other adoptees tell me about what they wanted their parents to do or say. Truthfully, I have no idea if I'm doing a good, or even remotely respectable, job but I am trying. I can only hope that my best is good enough to help her learn how to cope & process all the feelings and loss inherent with adoption, as well as all the information that she will learn about her bio family as she grows.