Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Can't catch a break!

Now the problem is with the fire inspection. The agency misplaced the report but luckily the fire inspector has a copy. She faxed it to me yesterday (very quick return call, very prompt fax) but our fax machine has a phantom paper jam. I called her just now and asked if she could please re-fax it to my boss' fax number, at which point she said she wasn't sure where it was. Yikes! Nevertheless, I'm hopeful that it can't have gone too far in the last 24 hours.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Public Service Announcement

While shopping today, I came across a sale at Kohl's on wall words. Great sayings, a wide variety. Too bad I couldn't make up my mind. But for those of you who, like me, think that a word is worth a thousand pictures, here are some great options!


I definitely should not be confessing this to the blogosphere, but as I'm taking pains to be unidentifiable... I'm planning to take a not-really-sick day tomorrow (today, technically) to run some errands and apply for a few jobs. One of the errands is to look for new dinnerware. And here we get, at last, to a connection to the underlying theme of this blog: observant Judaism.

It's an expensive proposition to set up a kitchen, and even more so when your mother insists that you buy high-quality everything (she worked at a high-end kitchen store when I set up my kitchen, got an employee discount, ...), and even more than that when you need to buy two (or three) of everything for kashrut purposes. So when I first needed dinnerware, I bought the least expensive stuff I could find--clear glass plates and bowls that came in a set of 12 each for, I kid you not, only $10. To be honest, I truly hoped that I would meet my husband, he would ask to be my husband, and we would end up with nicer plates that we chose together. That hasn't happened, and it's been nearly eight years. Somehow, I still have 12 dinner plates and 12 dessert plates. They are not all completely intact, however, and I have only eight bowls.

It seems that it is time to replace my dinnerware.

There are so many choices out there; how ever will I make up my mind? Before I moved last June, I spent hours browsing every website imaginable for dinnerware. But I've come up with the criterion that will make my decision easier: the plates must involve the color blue in some way. Because, you see, these are to be my dairy plates. In my effort to make the kitchen user-friendly and kashrut-protected, I am moving towards a completely color-coded system. No, the blender will not get replaced by one that is blue (and a good thing, as I doubt those exist). But it is a lot easier to tell a kiddo to use a blue bowl and a blue spoon for her cereal than it is to explain which bowls are for dairy, and what foods are dairy, and make her connect them.

Off to bed so that I can get a productive day in tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goals for the Summer

I was inspired by Mothering4Money to make a list of my goals for the summer. Obviously the first is get licensed finally. Then, let's see...

Non-kiddo related goals:
  1. find new job
  2. reduce dependence on caffeine
  3. wash dishes within a day of using them
  4. eat more salad and less pasta

Kiddo-related goals:

  1. do lots of coloring/painting/crafts
  2. take lots of photos
  3. keep a journal
  4. go to free concerts

Happy summer!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Differential Response

At my office staff meeting last week, my boss mentioned that he was going to a meeting hosted by our child welfare agency about Differential Response. It made more sense for one of my co-workers to go with him, but he knows that I'm interested in child welfare, so he offered me the opportunity to go. I pointed out that it would just be for my own personal enrichment, and that my going wouldn't really add value to the office, but I still got to go.

It was definitely interesting to learn about Differential Response and the benefits that it can have for kids and families (even though from a short-term resource usage perspective, it looks like it potentially could require a realignment of agency resources as well as a diversion of resources from other families that don't have hotline calls about them). And then because I'm picky about things like this, it was interesting to see that the Agency Director had written out his introductory remarks, even though he was speaking only to other agency directors. I could tell that he was reading his remarks.

Most interesting, however, were the data. Agency Director provided May's CPS data. I left my notes at work, so this is approximate, but that's better so that you can't find me. (This is why I didn't earlier post the exact number of licensed foster homes in my jurisdiction. I'd learned it from the newspaper, so you could easily figure it out. And I'm super antsy about anonymity, since I don't actually self-censor very well.) In May, there were over 1000 hotline calls. More than 600 of those were investigated. I don't recall how many of the 600 were substantiated. 330-some were neglect cases. This was all very overwhelming for me, as I realized how many investigators there must be in CPS, but also as I realized that there are more substantiated abuse and neglect cases each month than there are licensed foster homes in my Big City. Obviously not all substantiated cases result in out of home placement. Still. That's a LOT of abuse and neglect. I'm hopeful that implementing Differential Response will help families more than the current system.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Foster vs adoption licensing

Hello all out there in blog-land! I got a message from a friend this morning asking for some assistance with a project that she is doing at work, and you have additional knowledge that you can share.

The background: She is (I think a social worker, I'm clearly not as good a friend as I should be, and now would be too embarrassed to ask her what she does for a living) in Israel, and the licensing rules there for foster parenting are different than for adoption. For adoption, the parents have to have a certain income level, a minimum age gap between the parents and the kids, they might need to be married (guessing from her email), have a minimum education level, and there's a limit on how many kids they can adopt. Just as examples.

She wants to know if, in the various jurisdictions in the States, the process and rules are the same or different, and specifics. (Actually her question to me was only if they are identical and if I knew if it was the same in other states, but I imagine that a simple yes or no answer is not actually what she's looking for.)

I would love to compile information from all of you to pass along to her. If you could post information in the comments, that would be great, or if you have a lot to say and/or want to be able to say what state you live in without that being public for the world to see, you can email me at FrumFosterMom - at - gmail - dot - com.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Home study was this afternoon, though the licensing worker needs to come back a second time per the regulations. I totally could have lied about: 1. having a landline. 2. securing all of my household cleaners. 3. securing my medications.

Some reflections.

First, the appointment was at 2. At 2:09 (I can be precise because this is what my cell phone tells me) she called to tell me that she got lost. I gave her directions from where she was: "follow the road you're on and turn right on my street." At 2:36 she called again. Still lost. A little more complicated this time, as she was going the wrong way on my street, and for a few blocks (where she was), it is one-way. I try to give her directions but she wouldn't let me give them. She asked if there was anywhere to park and she would walk. I told her that she could park on the street, but if she drove to my building, there is a parking lot. At 3 pm she finally arrives. If she had only taken public transportation, she would have saved an hour of her time, an hour of my time, an hour of gas usage, and the stress that she then didn't know how to get back to her office. As I griped about this on facebook, it occurred to me that she could be testing me: "If you can maintain your patience as I call you repeatedly from five blocks away from your apartment but can't figure out how to get there, then you have the temperament to be a foster parent."

Then, she asked a lot of questions that (were completely appropriate and I wouldn't have minded answering them but) I had answered all of them previously in my mountains of paperwork. And much to my surprise, she had actually reviewed the paperwork before she came out to my home. So unless she wanted to see if my answers were consistent, it was a waste of time. And I just don't have answers to some of the questions. I remember that my mom made things miserable while I was growing up. I don't remember details. More questions are not going to help retrieve memories. And no, it isn't that "some things are difficult to talk about."

My ONE inept moment when I handed over an original (apparently, as I can't find my copy)? They lost it. It's the fire inspection report, too, which means that I can't just easily recreate it on my own. Crud. Other paperwork that they still need: dates of my various previous employment experiences, progress reports from my psychiatrist and therapist (because my MD's consultation with the psych was apparently not sufficient), and my very favorite--the name of a day care center near my apartment. This last is "proof" that I've considered the need for day care and know how to find it. They don't have to have any openings, I don't have to send the kiddo there, nothing like that. No, I just have to go through the exercise of identifying a day care center. That should be easy enough.

So it's just paperwork, a trip to Home Depot to get window locking things, and another visit. Maybe by Thanksgiving. :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009


Since it's not like I have anything better to do (ha!), I thought I'd show you a bit of what the kiddo's room looks like, now that it's all ready. This is my first effort at posting photos, so if it's rather amateur, please forgive me.

This is the bed (duh) and the wall behind it. The gold stars are from a convention that I planned in college. I spent so much time covering those darned stars with that gold paper that I have shlepped them around with me for the last ten years, just waiting until there was an opportunity to re-use them. I considered covering the wall with dark blue wrapping paper, and sticking the stars to that, but decided that the paper probably wouldn't last well at the head of the bed. (Wrapping paper on the wall is my trademark decorating technique. It's elsewhere in the kiddo's room, as well as in my living room and in the hallway.)

The blanket was mine growing up, as was the teddy bear. This poor guy is missing an eye. He has a brother sitting on the dresser with both of his eyes. I remember the year that my Big Sister and I got these as presents; the odd thing is that there is a third, and I don't have a clue how that one came to us.

This is the mirror that my freecyclers helped hang, over the dresser that I put together all by myself. (IKEA, it's not like it was that impressive.) The paint can-looking thing on the dresser I bought on sale for gift-giving purposes. I'm collecting little goodies that will be appropriate to give to each Kiddo when they come. The paint can has the beginnings of the first set (a giveaway plush house; a key chain with my address and phone number that can get put on the kiddo's zipper pull--not so helpful in summer, admittedly, unless it goes on a backpack instead of a jacket; some stickers).

I didn't take pictures of: the bookcase that right now has only stuffed animals on it (all of my kids' books are on the bottom shelf of the living room bookcase), the fabric-covered bulletin board squares that it turns out aren't thick enough to put thumbtacks in so they are completely pointless, or the cool wrapping paper that I did hang elsewhere in the room.

In other news, my basil plant (Ponty, short for J. Pierpont Finch, as I bought the basil at the same time as a rosemary plant) is not doing well. Hopefully his illness (or the fact that I've named my plants) will not be seen as an indication of my ability (or lack thereof) to care for children.

Getting ready

I think (naively, I'm sure) that I'll be okay with the single parenting thing. But I was reminded yesterday that I really do need a husband for some things around the house. Bear in mind, said husband doesn't need to be male. Just taller than I am, stronger than I am, and gutsier than I am.

I freecycled an old coffee table yesterday. It had been hanging around the kiddo's room so I finally got off my duff to do something about it. The people came to pick it up shortly after I discovered that hanging the mirror above the kiddo's dresser was going to be a two-person job, and even shortlier after I posted a status update on Facebook asking for a husband to help me hang it. I have a number of neighbors on Facebook, so when there was a knock on the door, it wasn't completely inconceivable that it would have been someone coming to help. It wasn't, of course, but I joked with the freecyclers that it could have been. After they took the table, they decided to come back and help with the mirror! Great people.

[Unfortunately, I later realized that I would also need a husband to hang the very cool lamps over my dining table. That might have to wait for my houseguest later this week.]

The kiddo's room is almost ready! I just need to buy some double-sided tape today so that I can hang some wrapping paper (my design technique). I also need a phone line splitter so that I can plug in the phone. And then the only real problem will be that my apartment isn't exactly picture-perfect. (I'm also bracing myself for needing to install additional smoke detectors. The regs say "less than ten feet from each bedroom." Depending on how you measure, the one smoke detector in my apartment is 10 and a half-ish feet from the kiddo's room, and even further from mine. But if you measure "as the crow flies," it's fine. So we'll see.)

Tomorrow's the big day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How am I not ready for my home study?

Let me count the ways:
  1. Cleaning supplies not locked up. (Ginormous tool box and lock are in trunk of car; hoping it is big enough.)
  2. Medication not locked up. (Smaller tool box is in bathroom and set up, but lock is still in car. And by the way, I'm not locking my daily meds unless there is a kiddo in the house.)
  3. Furniture in the middle of the living room, waiting for the landlord to fix the hole in the ceiling. And maybe the wall.
  4. Kitchen. Not clean. I know it doesn't need to be perfect, but for the first time it is being seen? It should be better than it is. And I should probably move some of my sharp knives. Also, have you seen "Not Me! Mondays" at My Charming Kids? I did NOT put a dirty (but empty) meat pot in the refrigerator before I left on vacation 2 and a half weeks ago so that I wouldn't have to clean the sink out to wash it. Okay, I did. And it was already from a Shabbat meal 3 weeks before that. Anyway, it should get washed. Before the home study.
  5. My bedroom is a mess. Out of everything, probably not the most critical. Nevertheless, how disorganized my things are will probably be seen as representative.
But the big one...

Kiddo's room is not set up. At all. Let's see...
  • I haven't hung the mirror over the dresser yet because
  • I haven't figured out if the furniture should stay where it is. Consequently,
  • I also haven't hung the shelf up on the wall (less important) that I bought.
  • I also haven't done any decorating whatsoever.
  • My old coffee table is on its side in the kiddo's room.
  • The ceiling light fixtures I bought for the dining room are sitting on the bed in the kiddo's room.
And I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. I'm having friends of friends stay with me for Shabbat, so at least there's some time pressure pre-Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Race and Conversion

I recently finished reading Black Baby White Hands by Jaiya John. He is an African-American male who was adopted as an infant by a white couple. He has three white siblings, the biological children of his adoptive parents (one older, two younger) and another African-American adopted brother.

As a child, his family never discussed race. He says that this lack of conversation, the failure to state explicitly what was implicit in the family dynamic, was not "color-blindness" but rather a refusal to acknowledge an important part of him.

I confess that I was troubled by some of what he wrote. I felt often that he was looking for proof that people were racist and therefore finding racism where there was none. Nevertheless, it made me think and challenged my assumptions.

And, to some extent, it challenges a fundamental tenet of Judaism: that once a person has converted, you are not supposed to mention the conversion. Considering conversion metaphorically (that is, not that adoption equals/requires/implies conversion) conversion and adoption are both versions of joining a family). This would indicate that what is significant is one's membership in a family, not the method by which one joined the family. However, John's experience counters this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A final (?) lead update

I am back in my apartment after a week of repairs to get rid of the lead paint hazards. Woohoo! I left work early (shh--no one knows) to come home and move my belongings. Now I see that not only do I have to do the cleaning and organizing that I was prepared for, but many of my things have been moved. Some in small, subtle ways. Other in "what's my rug doing in the foyer?" kind of ways. Though I will say that the rug looks nice in the foyer.


Of course there's a however. Tomorrow morning a different set of repair people are coming to fix the gaping hole in large chunk of paint dangling from the ceiling. Lovely.

On the plus side, yesterday I bought a phone and today arranged with the evil empire the phone company to get my landline set up. Is it really possible that with taxes and fees, a $7.29/month local-only plan could cost $35, such that it just makes sense to get the $35/month fees included unlimited nationwide calling plan? Maybe the kiddos will have relatives who are incarcerated out of town so it will make sense to have a nationwide calling plan. Not saying that would be a good thing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'll never be a "development associate"...

Recognizing that I only posted my fundraising appeal 45 seconds ago a few days ago, I'm not truly that upset to have gotten only one bite so far. Especially since I think a grand total of only three people now stop by here on occasion. And since we're not doing this for the money,it's not like we all have loads of dollars just waiting under our sofa cushions for good causes. Our lives are good causes.

But I'd love to be able to put together a healthy chunk of change and say "this is from the foster/adoptive blog community." So if the three of you could pass this on to your regular readers, that would be great. And I'll love you forever. With whipped cream and a cherry.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Phone advice

The regulations in my jurisdiction require foster homes to have "a working, non-coin operated, telephone." Among other reasons, I assume that this has to do with being able to call 911. While in my obsession with close reading, I think that a cell phone counts (it works, and it's not coin operated), I am willing to get a landline rather than try to convince the folks at the agency that the kiddo will always be with an adult who has a cell phone, even if the kiddo is home with a baby-sitter.

Friends have recommended that I get a vonage phone rather than a standard landline. The problem with this is that it doesn't work when the power is out. However, any cordless phone also won't work during a power outage. I have to decide by Monday at the latest what to do about the phone so that I have it in place and ready for my home assessment a week from Tuesday.

I'm looking for help answering these two questions (and any other advice is more than welcome as well):
1. do you think that having a vonage phone would be irresponsible generally, and
2. do you think that it would be a problem for licensing?


P.S. Please remember to check out the sidebar and help me Send a Kid to Camp!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Send a Kid to Camp!

One of my favorite newspaper columnists (and I'm not giving up any anonymity here because I read newspapers from a few different Big Cities--though this one is a Big City in which I live or have lived) has an annual campaign to "Send a Kid to Camp." Camp Moss Hollow is specifically for kids in foster care to allow them the same opportunity for summer fun as other kids.

It costs $700 for one kid for one week. I plan to sponsor one kid all on my own, but also have a goal of cobbling together smaller donations to sponsor another kid. (Or more than one. It's all about my undying fan-hood for the columnist.) If you can help, check out the sidebar where it says (hello, obviousness) "Send a Kid to Camp." You can donate directly or, even better (see: It's all about my undying fan-hood for the columnist) donate through me. Since I can't figure out how to create a Paypal button that maintains my anonymity--I don't mind donors knowing who I am, just the random people who might come across this, click on the donate button, then know who I am--please leave a comment or send me an email.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Foster parents and Rabbis

I was fortunate to be able to spend Tikkun Leil Shavuot* at Pardes, in Jerusalem, this year. I learned at Pardes many years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. So when I knew that I was going to be in Jerusalem for Shavuot, it was an easy choice just to spend the entire night there. Little did I expect that one of the shiurim** would be relevant to foster parenting.

The shiur was entitled "Kibud Av [honoring parents] and Kibud Rav [honoring teachers/rabbis]" and was given by Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield. While I didn't think that his shiur gave enough attention to the needs of the student (foster child, in my interpretation), one of his sources gives a lot to think about. I've copied it below without too much explanation of the Jewish bits. But read it replacing the word "teacher" with the phrase "foster parent," and the subject person as a foster child, and all of a sudden, the Rabbis of olde could have been speaking to us.

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Metzia; Page 33a***

Mishnah: If a person's lost article and his father's lost article need attention, his own takes precedence. His own and his teacher's - his own takes precedence. His father's and his teacher's - his teacher's takes precedence because his father brought him into this world and his teacher who instructed him in wisdom brings him to the future world. But if his father is a sage, his father's takes precedence. If his father and his teacher were each carrying a burden, he must first assist his teacher and then his father. If his father and his teacher are in captivity, he must first redeem his teacher and then his father, but if his father is a sage, he first redeems his father and then his teacher.

Gemarrah: From where to we know this? R. Judah said in the name of Rav: "Save that there be no poor among you." Yours takes precedence over others. But R. Judah also said in the name of Rav: He who strictly observes this will eventually be brought to poverty. Our Rabbis taught: the teacher referred to is he who instructed him in wisdom, not he who taught him Bible and Mishnah, this is R. Meir's view. R. Judah said: He from whom one has derived the greater part of his knowledge. R. Yossi said: even if he informed him of a single Mishnah only, he is his teacher. Raba said: for example, R. Sehora, who told me the meaning of zohara listron.

Shmuel rent his garment [that is, observed the mourning rituals that are obligatory on the death of a close relative] for one of the rabbis who taught him the meaning of "One was thrust into the duct as far as the armpit, and another key opened the door directly."

Ulla said: the scholars in Babylonia rise before each other [that is, provide each other with honor] and rent their garments before each other in mourning; but with respect to lost articles, when one has his father's also, he returns the scholar's first only in the case of his most central teacher.

R. Hisda asked R. Huna: What of a disciple whom his teacher needs? Hisda, Hisda, he answered: I do not need you but you need me. Forty years they bore resentment for each other and did not visit each other. R. Hisda kept forty fasts because R. Huna had felt humiliated, while R. Huna kept forty fasts for having suspected R. Hisda.

It has been taught: R. Isaac b. Yosef said in the name of R. Yochanan: The law is as R. Judah.

I really, really hope that my exposition here is clear and doesn't assume too much Jewish knowledge or experience with Jewish learning. But if I've failed, feel free to slap me around a bit in the comments. (BTW: the line about being thrust into the duct has something to do with opening doors, one was easy and the other really difficult, but I don't remember the explanation and it isn't necessary. So don't fret that it is completely boggling and unintelligible.)

The basic question, and here I will use the language of the mishnah and gemarra, but strike them through and replace them with the language of fostering, is: given mixed or conflicting allegiances, who should the student foster child honor/respect/love more, his father bio-family or his Rabbi/teacher foster family? (Interesting, that "should." It's where we get into some stickiness in the foster care arena. But halacha**** is about should/must/may/must not much more than it is about does/is. So that is the language we use here, and then celebrate that relationships in foster care are not governed by halacha.)

The mishnah teaches first that one has to look out for himself or herself first. I think that this is intuitive and fair, and echoes our experience in life. I haven't had any kiddos in my home yet, but my guess is that kids in foster care experience this even more strongly. And it's what you are supposed to do on an airplane if there's a loss of cabin pressure.

Then the mishnah teaches that a student foster child is to place the Rabbi/teacher foster parent above the father bio-family. This is troubling even in the original context. As another participant in the shiur pointed out, this text was written by the Rabbis, so of course they were looking out for themselves. But why is this? It is because, as the mishnah continues, the father bio-family "brought him into this world" and the teacher foster parent is... filling the role that the bio-family would fill if they had the ability to do so. (See: "if his father is a sage"...then the student doesn't so much need a teacher.) (It is reasonable to note here that, at least of the first-year students at Pardes, many are exploring being more observant than their parents or have already made the decision to be more observant than their parents, so this question of what does "kibbud av" really entail is a frequent topic of conversation. So it may be that Zvi was already thinking about this question from that perspective when he looked at the texts that he used as sources.)

As it then goes on in the gemarra, what happens when a student foster child has many teachers foster families? To what extent is the student foster child "obligated" to maintain feelings of honor/respect/gratitude (not sure about that last one) for the foster families that took the kiddo in for respite or for only a few weeks?

The range of answers given indicates both an ambivalence about and a desire to require expressions of respect. The ultimate answer, that respect is only required towards the teacher "from whom one has derived the greater part of his knowledge" strikes a balance. It is not necessarily the right answer for foster parents who are interacting with foster children, as the kiddos have to be the ones to discover for themselves what an individual family means to them.

But this text does shine a light on the mixed feelings that our foster children might/will have; they will feel a tug towards their bio-family that might cause them to feel conflicted if they want to be close also to us. We just need to be sure that we don't tell them that they need to place us above their bio-families.

* It is traditional on the [first] night of the holiday of Shavuot to stay up all night learning. This is called a tikkun leil Shavuot.
** Shiurim (singular: shiur) are classes. There's a special connotation to the word "shiur" as opposed to simply saying it was a class.
*** This is the citation to the source. If you're not familiar with the talmud, this won't mean much to you. "Mishnah" and "gemarra" are two types of content within the talmud.
****Halacha is the word for Jewish law.

Home assessment

Is scheduled! Tuesday the 16th. I'm thinking of having a "child-proofing party."

Monday, June 1, 2009

The lead saga...

...gets a little less saga-like!  This afternoon and evening, I shlepped (the benefit of a frum-themed blog is that I get to use yiddish without any guilt) a bunch of clothes, a shower curtain, a few pots, and my air mattress down two flights of stairs to my home-away-from-home where I blessedly am able to access someone else's wireless internet.  

Tomorrow morning, the lead abatement begins.  I hope that I succeeded in moving enough things away from the windows; I fell a bit into my pre-Pesach trap of being distracted by unimportant cleaning (did I really need to clean the soap gunk off my soap dispenser? no) instead of the necessary bits.  

But I justify the extra cleaning by this--I am returning my licensing worker's call tomorrow to schedule my home assessment for two weeks from now.  Lots to do before then, and none of it can be done while they are doing the lead abatement.  Such excitement!