Monday, August 31, 2009

Technical Question

Not foster care related, not Judaism related--
How can I find stats for this or other blogspot blogs? I'm interested in knowing approximately how many visitors I have, where they/you are (geographically), and how they/you are finding the blog. Many of you have referred to these data for your own blogs, so I know it must be possible.

Thanks for your help!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A man in the house

Normally I'm a very self-sufficient person. I own a power drill and other tools, and I put together most of my IKEA furniture on my own (my dad put together the end tables in the living room because he needed a project, and the kiddo's mirror required a second set of hands for measuring). But what I cannot (will not?) do is drill above my head. Especially not in the ceiling.

A friend is visiting, so I set him to work after Shabbat ended. He drilled three holes in the ceiling for me to hang some lamps from IKEA. And then he identified the location of the leak in my sink, which I could probably have done myself but haven't bothered with.

And this is why it is good to have a man in the house.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another response to the Time article

I received the email below from a listserve that I am on (interestingly, or not, one that I am technically not "allowed" to be on due to my current employment by the local government). I cannot give it the attribution that it is due because of my desire to remain as anonymous as possible. The author is a clinical law professor in my Big City who does a lot of work on children's rights and was a driving force (or at least a strong contributor, I wasn't involved at the time) behind a program to make it easier for grandparents to care for their grandkids without the involvement of the court. He wrote:

The larger tragedy that this piece illustrates is the breathtaking, frightening, unchecked social policing power exercised by the Executive branch of state governments -- including that right here in [our jurisdiction] -- who destroy children and families on the basis of biases, inaccurate and incomplete information, and who remain protected from accountability by closed Family Court courtrooms.

Think it can't happen here? It happens every day. In the past year, more than 60% of the children involved in my students' cases have been returned home to their parents from foster care placements without being found abused or neglected. That means that six of every ten children seized by your government -- with your money, in your name -- from living rooms and schoolhouses and their own bedrooms, housed with strangers and deprived of the comforts of home, family and friends, turn out not to have been abused or neglected. Oops! Like furniture, the government agrees to send them home, with nary an apology or regret at the trauma unnecessarily inflicted on them. In baseball, four successes in ten tries is Hall of Fame stuff. With respect to children's lives, however, it is tragic, reckless, dismal failure.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I think I may have mentioned my short attention span in a previous post. (Perhaps it's more of a tendency to be distracted at the drop of a hat--or at the threat of the drop of a hat--than a short attention span, as I can concentrate for hours on games of Alchemy or Bejeweled. On that note, I will say that today is my 11th day in a row without playing solitaire.)

Earlier today I was looking at media coverage of Senator Kennedy's life. So of course I ended up clicking on links to all sorts of very significant stories: Dog rescues owner from runaway hot-air balloon, and the like. (Yes, I made that up.)

But this one is real. Did a Mother Lose Her Child Because She Doesn't Speak English?

Basically, the story is this. (With apologies for any mis-remembered details. I read the article about eight hours ago, it's almost midnight, and I don't feel like re-reading. I'm lazy.) Mom leaves her small town in Mexico where she is a member of an indigenous tribe; Spanish is her second language, her tribe's language is the only one she speaks fluently. She makes it to the US without the appropriate paperwork. She finds a place to live and a way to make money. And then she has a baby. She doesn't speak any English, her Spanish is poor, and there are more students in some state universities than there are people worldwide who speak her native language. So she can't communicate with the folks at the hospital. Add to that the fact that she hadn't bought formula (because of course every new mom plans to feed her baby formula and stocks up on it before the baby is born; it's not like it's expensive or anything like that) or other trappings of an American babyhood, and someone makes the decision that she won't be able to take care of the baby.

Wow. Where to start. With the glaring lack of cultural sensitivity? With the tenuous-at-best foundation for the removal? With the apparent indifference to the child's well-being?

How about this. Mom faces deportation. But her child is in a foster home, and the article implies that the department of human services intends to retain custody. But if Mom is deported, she returns to her town where she speaks the language. And even if not speaking the dominant language were an acceptable justification for removal (just typing that makes me cringe), shouldn't the child be returned to her mother when that reason goes away?

All I know about this case is what was reported in the article I linked to, and I'm sure that there are facts that were left out that would make the real story more balanced and less sensational. But then I wouldn't have read it. Nevertheless, even if there were some reasonable justification for removal, even if the department intends to let the baby return to Mexico with her mother, still this article provokes thought about culture, our values, our assumptions, and what is really best for children.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is it possible...

...that nothing went wrong? HCC and I were a few minutes late for our fingerprinting appointment, causing me to speculate that we would be "punished" and made to come back another time. I didn't take my driver's license (stupid, I know), causing me to worry that she wouldn't do my prints and make me come back another time. But neither of those happened. She took our prints, made copies of our work IDs, and sent us on our way.

The only thing left now is to wait and see what else they manage to mess up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

For a friend...

One of my friends has started a blog and is looking for some feedback on direction. As a favor to me, would you check it out and leave her feedback?

Reb(el) With a Cause

She's told me that one of her causes will definitely be child welfare related, so there's an additional incentive to help her out.

Taking your guesses...

...for what will go wrong tomorrow. Highly Competent Coworker and I are going to the Agency tomorrow at 11 for fingerprinting; HCC to be one of my back-up childcare providers, and me because they lost mine. Even though they are electronic.

What could go wrong? Lolita (no pseudonym here, that's the real name of the fingerprinting person) could be out of the office, the machine could be broken, the paperwork could be wrong, Lolita could be expecting only HCC and not me such that--well, I don't know what the consequence would be...

Add your guess in the comments, and if you're right, your prize is that you clearly have survived the licensing process already.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Of course

I just got a call from Licensing Worker*, and then, kind of ironically, I got a comment from r. on one of my most recent posts (the one on "This is what is wrong with the agency").

Take a moment to think about everything that has gone wrong and could go wrong in my never-ending licensing process.

Did you think "FBI background check could be lost"? If you did, you win! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the brilliant agency with which I work which 1. sends fingerprints to the FBI electronically, 2. gets the report back from the FBI electronically (as best as I can tell), and 3. has all of the records electronically, cannot find my report because it was marked with the "emergency/temp" code.

Licensing Worker tells me this (that it was coded wrong) while doing her best to imply that the report is lost. I ask if this experience indicates that my HCC (Highly Competent Coworker) needs to indicate anything specific when she goes to get fingerprinted next week. "Oh no, why would she need to know anything? I put her in the system as your backup." Okay sure, you didn't mis-code me?

This issue did come up because Licensing Worker is finally writing my report (the one that, at my second home visit on July 22, she told me she would write by the end of the month--clearly she meant the end of "a" month, not "the" month). Which means that she is at least writing it before she gets my HCC's background check. But she wouldn't give me any sort of a timeframe since she is working on other reports at the same time.


* The actual transcript of the first few lines of the call:

Me: "Hello, this is [Foster Ima]."
LW: "Hi."
Me: "Oh, [Licensing Worker]!"

Now, she and I both work for our Big City and we have caller ID on our work phones. So when she calls me, her phone shows that she's calling [Ima, Foster]. However, her number is programmed wrong. So I have to remember that [Smith, Jane] is actually [Worker, Licensing]. Which is the only way that I did figure out who was calling. Otherwise, I would have had to say "Who the hockey sticks is this?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Just a short bit about myself. I'm not the most patient person in the world. This is a problem tonight.

1. I'm in the middle of two knitting projects. One is a scarf. (Thanks to Yondalla who linked to this pattern quite some time ago.) I'm on row 260+. It's long enough to wear but not nearly as long as a scarf you would find in a store. I have plenty of yarn left in the ginormous skein that I've been shlepping with me from place to place at least since I started law school. But I Want. To. Be. Finished. The other project is a wine gift bag. I'm making up the pattern as I go. It's in 5 pieces. Each side is 70 rows. I'm on row 37 of the second side. And I Want. To. Be. Finished. Noting a theme here?

2. My job search. I have lots of leads even though I'm not doing terribly much towards them at the moment. Today I heard about a job that will be posted next week. I heard about this job from the person doing the hiring. Before I even knew about the job, she (oh let's call her Possible New Boss--PNB--just for the sake of convenience) emailed her boss to ask if they could hire me. PNB's boss--who I also know, pretty well in fact from a professional perspective--said that I would have to apply. But really, doesn't this sound pretty good? First response of PNB to hearing that my job is being eliminated is "this is horrible, we need to find you a job." Second response of PNB is to email her boss to try to hire me. So now I'm irresponsibly tempted to forego any job searching this week, and Can't. Wait. until next week. But it's only Tuesday.

This is what is wrong with the agency

Need a refresher on where I am in my never-ending licensing process? Licensing Worker showed up and told me that my back-up child care people need background checks, when given the name of a licensed parent who was in my class (taught by Licensing Worker) the Licensing Worker told me to get a copy of said parent's background check, am working on a second person (lots of friends with background checks who can't figure out who has copies).

Now that you're caught up--

The original second back-up person is a co-worker of mine. Let's call her Highly Competent Coworker (HCC). HCC mailed her paperwork for her background check about two weeks ago. HCC then had the unmitigated gall to go on vacation (not related to this story, I just wanted to say "unmitigated gall"). I was out of the office yesterday when HCC came back. So I spoke with HCC this morning. She recounted the voice mail she received. "Hello. I've scheduled you to come in for fingerprints next Tuesday at 11."

I need to give props to HCC. If I had gotten that voice mail, I would have fumed (and blogged!) and then called back saying that the time she had mentioned was not possible for me. HCC, on the other hand, who is a Very Busy Person, found that her calendar was clear and accepted the appointment. She suggested to me--unnecessarily, of course, as I agree with her 100%--that perhaps the person from the Agency should not have just dictated a time. Not usually the best way to schedule meetings.

And this is what is wrong with the Agency.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Goal #1: Find a new job

Early last week I got the official word: effective October 1, my position is being eliminated.

So the job search that was originally urgent on account of an embarrassing Facebook incident and then relaxed due to, well, no real reason in particular, is now urgent again. Ideally, I will be able to have a seamless transition. If that doesn't happen, I've sent my resume to some legal temp agencies (document review very well might be the most boring job that a lawyer can do, but it pays better than unemployment and it pays better than telemarketing).

But I find myself also looking forward to a break. I can take some days to do a really good cleaning of my apartment. I can take a day (or two-day) trip to the beach. I can drive around my Big City taking photos. I can visit My Dad who is doing a teaching gig in Budapest for the fall semester (though I asked My Mom what she thought of that idea, and got a "no, that's Stupid" response).

Or I can have some time to get to know a kiddo.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Clever Ideas

I'm a big fan of Real Simple magazine... not that I'm at all organized, it's more of enjoying organized life vicariously. I got the special Family issue this weekend, and there were many clever ideas. I've always wondered what people do with all of their magazine clippings, but now I know: blog about them. You might not find all--or any--of the ideas as clever as I do, but at least I'll know where to find them. Unless I forget about this post.

Getting kids ready in the morning:
  • Take photos of each step in the morning routine; hang them up in a timeline type of format at kid height.
  • Create a fun, upbeat (perhaps gradually increasing in upbeat-ness) playlist/CD that is the right length for getting ready. Then the kiddo will know "by the time X song is done, I need to have my teeth brushed"; "by the time Y song is done, I need to be dressed"; etc.
Free stuff online:
  • Free kids' audiobook at AudibleKids. I've not checked it out myself, so I don't know what type of registration is necessary, if there's a limit to number of books, how big the selection of books is... But the magazine does mention that you need to click on the RIF logo.
  • Coloring pages at National Geographic
  • Other fun paper projects at and
The tooth fairy:
  • Did you know that the Tooth Fairy has a website? Not free, but fun swag.
Eating vegetables:
  • Do you have trouble getting your kiddos to eat their veggies? (or anything else that you want them to eat?) A reader contributed a suggestion to use dice to determine how many more bites your kiddo needs to eat before being excused. Let the kiddo roll the dice, and it's a fun and empowering way to involve kiddo in healthy eating. (I don't have an opinion on whether it's a good idea to do the "two more bites" thing with kids. But if you're going to do it...)
For your grown-up desk, use a metal Slinky as a pen and business card holder. Link it in a donut shape, stick pens in the center and business cards in the slots. And when you get bored, take it all out and play!

Public Service Announcement #2

I've alluded before to my professional life (for example, here) -- by which I refer to what I am supposed to be doing while sitting at my desk, rather than blogging, etc. I work for my local government in education (broadly speaking), and have had the opportunity to do a decent amount of policy-related work regarding kids in care and education. Through this work, I recently learned about a conference call tomorrow that you might be interested in.

Here are the details:

This is a reminder that the The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education will be hosting a conference callTOMORROW that explores the link between improving educational outcomes and achieving permanency for children in care. The call will feature speakers who have or are currently conducting research indicating a link between school success and increasing rates of permanency.

The discussion will also highlight several education-related factors that undermine or support permanency goals, the correlation between educationally at-risk youth and those at-risk of failing to achieve permanency, and the role of education issues in permanency planning.The call will take place on Tomorrow, August 11th at 3pm (Eastern).

Conference Dial-in Number:218-339-4300

Participant Access Code:427775

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Licensing Saga

Because I'm sure you're all desperately interested in the frustrating ineptness of my agency, and because I don't have anything better to do than blog (ha!), here's an update on why I am still not licensed, 14 months after attending the mandatory and pointless orientation session and 11 months after beginning training.

I had my second home visit more than two weeks ago on Wednesday. On Monday, I emailed my licensing worker to confirm the appointment and asked for her to let me know in advance if there was any additional paperwork that she needed so that I could have it ready for her. Of course, I didn't hear anything from her.

But when she showed up, the first thing she did was to tell me that "there's a new policy" that back-up caregivers need background checks. (Note that I think this requirement makes sense, though it is inconsistently applied, and if it makes sense now, didn't it make sense in September when I provided names?) This of course requires people who don't have the same sense of urgency as I have to take actions that are not part of their day-to-day life. There is a form that needs to be notarized (although the form actually allows signing in front of an agency employee as an alternative, but Licensing Worker doesn't understand that) which means that it can't be returned by fax or by PDF. If Licensing Worker had sent me the forms on Monday, I could have had my back-ups fill them out on Tuesday and get them notarized my back-ups are both co-workers, and we have a notary in the building), and I could have returned them on Wednesday. But no, that would be too easy.

Okay, so setting that aside for a moment. It occurred to me that I have friends who already have background checks. For example, Cutie's Aunt and Uncle who were in my training class. (Cutie was in foster care in another jurisdiction, Aunt and Uncle needed to be licensed in order to adopt her.) And one of my co-workers who works with children in her job. So I checked with both of them and asked if they would be interested/willing to be back-ups. They both said yes, so I emailed Licensing Worker:

Licensing Worker,
Instead of the two people I originally listed as back-up child care providers, I am going to be using:
1. Cutie's Aunt (phone number) -- has [Agency] background check
2. Social Worker Coworker (phone number) -- has [School System] background check

Licensing Worker responded asking me:
When you say that Cutie's Aunt has a [Agency] background check, do you mean a Child Protection Clearance and FBI and Police clearances?

Now, keep in mind that Licensing Worker was one of the trainers. And Cutie's Aunt was in my class. So Licensing Worker should know Cutie's Aunt, even though the other trainer did Aunt and Uncle's home study. So that's WTF? moment number one.

Then, Licensing Worker asked me to get a copy of Cutie's Aunt's background check. It is undoubtedly in a file somewhere in a cubicle near Licensing Worker's. Thankfully, after I reminded Licensing Worker of this fact and suggested that she check with our other trainer, she said she would get it herself.

However, in the meantime, Social Worker Coworker doesn't know where to get a copy of her background check because it is kept in the bowels of another bureaucratic mess, so I've gone to yet another coworker; this one who has a background check to do a weekend respite program. He has sent an email to his contact to get a copy of it for me.

I hope that Licensing Worker isn't waiting for the background checks to be completed before writing her report, but I am hesitant to contact her to check, as I have no desire to antagonize her. She probably IS waiting since that's how things are going. And I definitely am not going to ask if she's followed up with her supervisor about the windows.

So that's where I am. Your children will have all grown before I am licensed. Apparently.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interesting Research

This post from the Early Ed Watch blog showed up in my reader this morning. It's about depression in pre-school age kids, how adults think about the effects of early childhood experiences in kids' development, and Harry Potter. That is, how did Harry turn out so well-adjusted despite the neglectful (at best) environment in which he was raised? Interesting reading...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Nephew

Since I don't have a kiddo in my home to say cute things, I will have to share from My Nephew, as reported by My Sister:

My Nephew: I wish I was a monkey.
My Sister: Why?
My Nephew: Because then I could throw poop at you.

Monday, August 3, 2009


As the title suggests, this post is going to be primarily about all of the worries that I have as I look towards my first parenting experience (timing still to be determined). But first I want to say briefly that this post itself to a small degree is demonstrating to myself that I am able to overcome at least one of my long-standing (and unspoken) fears--vulnerability. By putting out there in the blogosphere for all the world to see all of my fears (though not all, as I'm sure I will omit some inadvertently as I type, or will realize some later), even those that even I think are stupid, I am making progress in the open communication that will be necessary when I am parenting.*

Some of the fears I am going to list below are in the "general anxiety" category. For the rest, I would love to hear from those who have been there (either with foster kids or bio kids) with any advice or guidance you have.

Without further ado, my fears, as I remember them at 11:30 at night:

1. General irresponsibility regarding sleep. I stay up too late, I hit snooze, I whine and moan when I do drag myself out of bed. Will I be able to respond appropriately when a kiddo has a nightmare? Will I hear if a kiddo gets out of bed in the middle of the night? What in the world will I do with an early riser?

2. Hair care. During training, we were told that "most of the kids in the system are African-American; a few are Latino." So chances are really good that the kiddo(s) who live with me will be African-American. I know that it is different to take care of African-American hair than my mostly-straight-but-frizzy-in-the-humidity hair. But I don't know the details. Are there special shampoos? Special washing directions? Frequency? What if a girl comes to me with braids or other fanciness? How do I take care of them? Help!

3. Toothbrushing and other general hygiene matters. In the grand scheme of things, this one is small. Really it is a subset of bathing, below, but because it is less "risky," I separate it out. I'm going to be licensed for kids from 3-10. At some point in that age range, a child who has grown up in a healthy home knows how to do for himself or herself all sorts of general hygiene matters--toothbrushing, the components of bathing (hair, washing body), proper cleanliness following toileting. So at some point in that age range, watching a child to see if he or she is doing each task "correctly" is inappropriate/embarrassing to the child. So how do you handle that? How much do you assume the kiddo knows (and then re-teach if it becomes necessary) and how much do you assume that you should start from scratch because then if the kiddo doesn't know, he's not stressed about needing to ask/admit he doesn't know?

4. Potty training. A three year old might come to me not potty trained, or might regress (or I might have a kiddo with developmental delays come to live with me), and I will need to work on potty training. I know that there are books on how to do this, and I wouldn't mind recommendations on those or just general tips (especially for boys, since I'm not one and don't have a grown one to help me). But more importantly, the very same kiddo who I might need to potty train might have been sexually abused. How do I keep the kiddo feeling safe while changing diapers (pre-pottty training) and then while helping with toileting?

5. Bathing. This relates back to potty training--a kiddo comes to me who has been physically abused, and the first thing I tell her is that she is safe and no one is going to touch her private parts, and then it's time for a bath and she's naked in the tub and, well, I've just broken my promise. How do you make bathing safe for a kiddo who is too young to bathe himself or herself? What about an older child (6 or 7) who you discover isn't (or doesn't know how to) cleaning himself or herself properly and needs help learning?

6. Toys. I am so nervous that I won't know what to do with the kiddos to play and support their imaginations and creativity. How do I know what is age-appropriate?

7. Discipline. All the theories and alternatives we learned about in training are well and good, but we had No Practice. No role playing, nothing other than a silly game of hot-and-cold to demonstrate positive reinforcement. And I don't know what these kiddos are going to come to me doing. I read all of your blogs and I'm definitely big-time in the naivete stage. Am I going to know what to do when I need to do it? Is the kiddo's social worker going to be a good resource or will I have to hide any insecurity from her (I'm assuming the social worker will be female based on my experiences with the agency)?

8. First-day timing (shopping, etc). Yeah, not such a big issue. I just think that there are so many things that will need to be done Right Away when kiddo comes to live with me: decompressing/grieving, a snack or dinner, introductions and a tour of my apartment, shopping for PJs and a toothbrush and a teddy bear and clothes (I'm assuming--maybe this won't be necessary), bedtime... how does it all fit into one afternoon? Do people who parent with another person have one stay at home with the kiddo while the kiddo cries and rages and whatever else she needs to do and the other parent go buy necessities? Do I go and buy the necessities before meeting the kid (but then the kiddo doesn't get to choose what gets purchased)?

9. Not being a good parent. Just in general. What if I'm a horrible parent and I mess the kiddo up more than if he or she never lived with me? What if I'm no good at this and then all my friends know that I'm not a good parent? What if I really am just selfish?

And so on.

* It's 11:30 pm, and if I cared to edit this after I write it, I would make this sentence much more coherent. But I don't anticipate doing that, so please forgive me.