Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles - One Last Time

I do not want to see the inside of a hospital room again for a very, very, very long time.

Yesterday Rob got his 2nd knee replacement in less than a year. In between replacements he was able to experience 5 months with no knee after infection set in.

I can't imagine what the snip snap snip of three surgeries has taken on his body...I know what it's done to my emotional well-being. In addition because of a few issues he has had every consult possible besides neuro, psych, dermatology and podiatry. Hoping to give our insurance and his body a break next year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Baby Steps, How's that Working for the Baby?

One of the goals of reunification of families post foster care is the avoidance of reentering the foster care system. 

That's a great goal. 

But without parental change, family counseling, and a whole menu of different choices, how can this happen? 

The link below shares a statement that says clearly that foster care placement re-entry happens most often with older kids or kids with behavioral issues. 

I don't want to be cynical. But raising kids is hard. Amiright? Real hard. 

The children you grow inside your body begin separating from you the second they are born. Heck, they claw and crawl out of your mama body. Then your body becomes theirs, they expect you to meet all of their needs and loudly get that across to you. At around 18 months to 2 years and beyond they begin to demand with tantrums and screamed "No!!!!!'s and MINE!!!!'s" All in an an attempt to become their own people. Then the later elementary and teen years make it clear to both parent and child that life long under one roof isn't necessarily what the goal should be. 

This process is normal and healthy. A parent who parents for the child's best interest sets boundaries and communicates clearly those boundaries. They set limits and lay out expectations and follow through with earned consequences. 

But the kids in foster care are there because of some sort of breakdown where the state needs to get involved. Either the child is out of control for whatever reason, or there are substances involved, or some sort of tragedy. 

So, in my experience, kids feel and they process and it's not always pretty. Have you ever experienced the wrath of a child? Or inconsolable grief? Imagine dealing with either while you are doing your best to get through the day without that drink or without that meth, or when you have no coping skills except what you recently were given on a typed 8 1/2 x 11.  

Where did the kids with the behavioral issues develop their issues? Do visits with the biological family stir up the acting out, the shutting down or the issues? If that's the case, is the biological family the best choice for the child? In an older child, have they begun the process of hating their biological family for things like the sacrifice of child security on the altar of adult addiction? That would make me real angry. Or has a biological mother chosen one dirt bag boyfriend too many and she's showing evidence that she's real lonely and thinking about going fishing in the same old cesspool for a new man? That seems like a scenario where acting out could save a life. 

In this study of just one year, in one state the rates were 9% and up to 26% of former foster care children who were successfully reunified with a biological family member needing to be re-placed in the foster care system. Basically 1 up to 2 and 1/2 out of 10 kids. 

If you were going to consider living in a neighborhood where you were given 25% likelihood you'd be robbed or your house would burn down or you'd develop lung cancer would you be willing to hope that you'd be in the 75% who made it out alive/intact?

If your child was to go to a summer camp where she or he had a 1 in 4 chance of breaking a bone, getting lyme disease or suffering a bear attack, would you send her/him? 

I look at my personal situation. A biological mom who has lost 3 older kids. Her one year old was lethargic, uninterested in life, sat in a car seat with no curiosity, only wanted to eat easy things like white bread and cookies, was grayish in color, her hair dull and lifeless. After 1 month in a foster care home filled with love she was eating vegetables and fruits, smiling and laughing, walking and dancing. At 6 months in she was speaking, running, posing, hugging her dogs, loving her siblings. Her hair and complexion were bright, her eyes shined and snapped with personality. 

Her mom goes into rehab for the second time. Because it is a rehab center where mothers need to have a child present, the little one is removed from the foster care setting and placed back with the biological mom in a rehab facility. This little one's chances are about 25% that she will be returned to foster care because of parent failure. And I venture a guess that there is about 100% chance that there will be emotional scars and damage done in this experiment. I don't think a 1 in 4 roll of the dice is acceptable with a child's life. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Change. One Child at a Time?

I'm back. 

With more out loud thinking about foster care. 

This issue just grows more important to me as the days go by. 

On Saturday evening I was able to be part of a forever family celebration. A very beloved family. My daughter's ceremony/reception blessed a couple hundred close family and friends as she invited us to share this amazing event. Julianna wrote vows and read them to the children. Her kids new chosen-by-them names were blessed, and hands were laid on them as prayers were said. 

Then dozens of kids played on swings in the trees, slid down the slip and slide in the back pasture and played with edible bubbles, noisemakers,  each other and dogs. The evening was a glorious celebration indeed. 

It wouldn't have happened if the bio parents had not forfeited their rights due to multiple, multiple choices they made to lose those children. As I've said before I do get drug addiction. I understand how generational addictions become curses, wrapping heavy chains of dysfunction around the necks of the young and innocent. Dragging members of those families down into quagmire that seems somehow safe because it is the only darkness they've come to know. And I mourn this. I would never, never, never wish this life on any one. And to think that it begins with little ones who don't have the ability to reason, or understand that what is happening to them, in their family, is not normal. Is not okay. That breaks my heart. 

But, when these children grow older, and begin to follow the pattern set for them, even embrace it, how many chances should they get when they began to have children of their own and incorporate them right into the toxic family stew? 

I am certain that the biological parents of my forever grandchildren love them. But I don't believe they have what it takes to nurture, to choose what's best for those children no matter how difficult it is for them to help that happen. To successfully nurture a child you can not be selfish 90% of the time.  You choose to put your vices aside to make sure the kids have food that can feed them rather than harm them. To nurture your child you take time to listen to them. To ask questions to further understand them. You apologize if you are wrong as a parent. You read to your children, you talk to your children, you remember important dates to your children. You show up to pick them up when you say you will. You pick caregivers who are safe. These parents were unable to provide nurture, the children reacted to that neglect, the crazy cycle kicked in and nothing successful was happening. When sobriety is a fragile as strand of spider silk, and hurt and angry children are pushing and pulling on that string, the end result is not pretty. 

How many chances is okay to give these parents? How many scars do we let them inflict, how many experiences do we allow them to have that will cement the idea that addiction is normal into their little minds? At what point in a life of a child do we consider that their mental and emotional health can indeed be permanently altered negatively by the choices of parents? And that this is an abuse that warrants immediate end to the yo-yo of reunification? 



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ More Statistics Foster Care Must Change...

In continuing my research into foster care, I believe I have looked at literally 1/4 of 1% of the available information. Google foster care reform and you get 1.5 MILLION results.

I found a few sites I'll be revisiting. http://www.childrensrights.org/our-campaigns/foster-care-reform/
And http://www.fosteringrights.org. Go Arizona. 

For Iowa, here's some reading material. 

Idaho http://www.ktvb.com/news/foster-care-reform-bill-heads-to-house-floor/61955505

Here's one that rates the states based on high or low rates of adoption of available children from foster care. http://www.ncpa.org/media/the-best-and-worst-states-for-foster-care But. This has nothing to do with reunification other than available adoptability success for a higher percentage of children when reunification fails. So the three states chosen as best New Mexico, Utah and New Hampshire, are great for adopting children when the biological family fails to meet the reunification goal. This is a great thing. Because this means that less children end up in institutions. But, again, it doesn't take into consideration how long the children were bounced between foster care and biological parents. Or how many fails were allowed and the cost of those fails. The cost to the child. And the cost for the tax payers. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Foster Care Any Solutions?

Christa asked a good question. Where are the statistics to prove that reunification (the goal of foster care is to return the child or children to their biological family especially parents) works?

I found the following pdf full of governmental wording and red tape type of speak. 
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/family_reunification.pdf The bottom line I take away from it is that states that are able to fund programs and extra staff have a higher rate of success with reunification. The retraining of parents, showing them how to take care of their children is a main focus requiring hours a week for months and it seems to work well. Especially when there are caseworkers who have been given limited cases which frees them up to invest into these families. 

Not only is the government concerned with returning children to their home, they also want to see the children remain at home. High levels of parental training seemed to help this outcome. 

But what do we do with the average/usual situation? My grandchildrens' biological mother was very vocal about her opinion that counseling was a joke. A waste of time. This belief was repeated multiple times over the months the children were being phased back into her life before the judge had had enough. I cannot in good conscience believe that the overwhelmed parent who just needs some guidance and help from very well trained and available staff is the rule rather than the exception. My brush with humanity has led me to believe that most folks sink to the bottom of the tide pool because the swimming and going against the flow are just way too much work. I am flabbergasted that so many parents lose their children when they have already lost one, or been warned. If you can't pull yourself together enough to keep the state from removing the child in the first place, after ample warning, why should we assume that you can overcome and suck up and stand up and do the right thing forever in order to get your child back? And then lets add drugs or alcohol or both to the mix. How can we assume that reunification is the usual and best outcome for ALL of these families in crisis? 

I know I'm coming from a cynical place. I have seen children get sucker punched. I've seen the look of resignation when a child is disappointed and is compelled to make an excuse for the parent who broke their heart. Again. I have seen parents choose their favorite sedative over the children they carried for nine months, right underneath their heart. If a stranger can love a child better and more (because addiction is horrible, but there come choices to step away or no one ever would) than a biological parent, then can't we come up with an alternative to reunification always and forever? 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ The Foster Care Problem Continued....

It's been a few days since I brought up foster care. And the issues.

Today I'd like to go back to the stories briefly mentioned a few weeks ago. The two moms who each lost multiple children and finally got their stuff together with the very last chance and the very last child. They kicked their drug habits and succeeded. One is even an advocate for biological parents after she obtained her Master's Degree.

Not having a Master's Degree, or the desire to obtain it, can I just say that I don't believe a Master's Degree makes one a successful human being? Nor does a Master's Degree make a person a good parent, or a decent person. A Master's shows you have accomplished higher learning and conquered the task. It doesn't measure your character or your abilities other than the ability to follow the stated rules, memorize and pass tests. In my field I was trained to "know" many, many, many aspects of my job and I can honestly say 5% of my education is something I still use to this day. The rest has become dormant. I might be able to recall tidbits. But tidbits that are obsolete don't really matter. I, instead, have broadened my education by learning other aspects of the medical field by hands on experience. The medical terminology I need is either in my brain because of repetition and use. I have ICD-9 codes memorized because I used them. ICD-10's are slowly replacing the ICD-9's because of the need for change.

Why am I going on about this? Because I don't know that 2 women out of thousands over the same time frame are a real good return for the state's investment of time and money. Two women are cited as examples why the reunification of biological families is best. But it can't be best in every case, every scenario. Those two overcomers clearly had something inside of them that changed. I believe change is possible. My husband lived as an active alcoholic for years. I understand the crazy that comes with substance abuse, I had a front row seat on that roller coaster. And he chose alcohol over his wife and children more often than I care to remember. Substance addiction is a horrible thing. Something that many can't overcome and it grabs people by the throat and demands them to do the worst just to get another fix.

And that's one of the problems with the reunification at all costs mindset. I think we could all agree that group home scenarios are probably not the best end result. I don't want the state to sever rights so we have group homes not meeting the needs of thousands and thousands of children. But I also think there has to be a better solution than rubber stamping bio is best on every single case. Biological parents are not best if they are creating a toxic emotional world for a child. Especially if there are others who have stepped in and said they'd be willing to take these children and raise them and love them. Too often the loving home environment is put on the chopping block because the biological parent isn't actively trying to injure their child at the moment so rights are returned to the biological parent. Two years later that child might just be back in foster care, more broken, bleeding internally from the heart and the soul over neglect and worse, but that possibility is conjecture. And conjecture isn't something that is presented to the judges. Impressions, reports, facts. Those all go into the machine. But legally fortune telling or stories or even likelihood can't play a huge part in the decisions made by judges. And how can the judges in a reunification state consider anything but the facts and how they line up with the state goal of reunification? They can't. Our judges hands are tied by the law that has been written.

I would be interested in hearing what the "lost" children have to say about the biological mothers mentioned above. And I'd like to hear from the child who was returned to her. I'm pretty sure they would have some interesting facts or impressions to bring to the discussion.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Like Riding a Bike

So. Things I learned about myself whilst I had the brood last week. 

Thought:  "Parenting" little children is like riding a bike. You don't forget. 

Truth: Ha. So not true. Actually, last time I was on a bike I crashed and hurt myself. A week of young children left a few bumps and bruises, too. 

Thought: I can survive on less than four hours of sleep at night.

Truth: If you like being a zombie, sure. Slow motion growling sound side effect. 

Thought: Four dogs is as easy as two, and how involved can kids be, they all wipe themselves? 

Truth: Two skid-marked underpants found in odd places, one in a dog's mouth. Nuff said!

Thought: When things are real quiet sit back and relax, they are probably reading nicely. 

Truth: Definitely NOT the above statement. Not at all. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ A Pause to Reflect...

The red faces are not devils, FYI, they are ladybugs.
I just finished a stint on the frontline.

"Really, Kelly? You don't strike me as Special OPS material. But, hey, you do you."

My mission was challenging. Tested my endurance, my abilities, every skill set I thought I had developed over my lifetime, and even my sanity.

You see. I had the grands and their two big dogs for nearly a month, errrr no it was less than a week. But. Just sayin.

In that week's time there were two incidents of random vomiting.

Not one single night where someone or something didn't wake me up.

There was a finger biting incident when all were supposed to be sleeping.

I had to apologize for yelling "Shut UP!" over the cacophony of fighting voices in the back seat. Not once but twice. The sage advice from the 9 year old was to just simply say "Be Quiet" next time.

I have never washed more laundry or dishes in my life.  Nor have I ever had to referee more squabbles, more skirmishes, more incidents ever. I said things like. "Stop licking your brother right now." "Do NOT wipe that on me. Go wash your hands!" "What about this sounded like a good idea at the time?" "Really. Did we just go there?!?" "Go to sleep NOW! Sweet dreams, Pumpkin!"

Okay. I did raise three children so I'm pretty sure I've said all those things and more and done more laundry, and dishes. But give me a break. Like I said, I've just returned from the front lines. And honestly, I'm missing the chaos just a little bit this morning. Sigh. Those kids.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Something Needs to Change - Part 6

On Memorial Day I did some more foster care research. Sadly, I found an article about exploding foster care numbers and the lack of families stepping up to take in kids. The little county in North Carolina had about 6 kids a month enter foster care but two months back to back the number jumped to 24. The current number of foster care families would have to take 10 foster kids each to meet the demand.

One of the biggest reasons for the jump in number of children into the system was surprising to me. Many of the families had military connections as in a parent in the military. Deployment puts extra stress on families and some of that is manifesting in foster care placements.

Families facing a difficult scenario while a soldier risks his or her life now have to be concerned about family breakdowns serious enough to end with a child in foster care?

There are people on each side of the reunification vs termination issue that have compelling stories. One mom, a mother of 10, lost nine of her children, then kicked drugs, received number 10 back and went on to get her Master's degree and entered the fray saying that termination happens too quickly. In the case of a military family struggling during deployment, how could the deployed man or woman even attempt to regain his or her child within the 15 month Federal mandate? In my personal situation how can the outcome of reunification possibly be best?

I have more questions, more concerns than answers.

to be continued....

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Something Has to Change - How?

One of the biggest issues I've encountered with trouble in foster care is burn out. Several of my friends and family members have been foster care parents, or temporary family homes for foster children. Both in Iowa and Nebraska. In cases where those folks have stepped away from the system it's because they have witnessed the case of a child or children being returned to a very broken family scenario and they've lost heart.

Foster parents are expected to love a child like it is their own but remember it is not. What a wonderfully impossible goal. But that goal exists because reunification is the best alternative and the legal best outcome in Iowa. So helplessly, a foster parent watches a child return to a home where they will likely be fed, clothed, cleaned and nurtured in a way that is not going to lead to a successful outcome.

Some children are resilient and can overcome great odds and grow up to be super achievers if given a few breaks. Others will end up in defeat sinking into the road cut for them by nature and it turns out nurture. We have reached a point in the foster care system where many of todays parents of children going into or residing long term in foster care have been foster care children themselves.  Multiple generations of children in foster care might mean that the system is broken or breaking.

Not every foster care child has a safe family that is willing to adopt them. Which means that if termination happens, they become wards of the state or "legal orphans" as stated in an article I read. In this scenario is a broken, possibly dangerous family a better outcome than a facility?

Federal foster care laws state that termination must happen if a child spends 15 of the previous 22 months in foster care. Each state interprets that statement its own way.

What to do? Is there a solution that can lead to a better outcome?

to be continued