Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Know anything about Northern Virginia?

My friend Liz (names changed to protect the innocent!) is A-Mazing. I recently learned just how amazing. She and her younger brother are both adopted, different birth families, and while she had the benefit of a healthy time in her birth mother's womb, her brother did not. He has all sorts of mental health and developmental disability issues, compounded by a stay at one of the well-known but has-abusive-tendencies residential treatment centers.

Liz's parents aren't able to provide her brother with the support that he needs, so Liz is his primary support. She is his representative payee for his SSDI/SSI and pays out of her own pocket for him to see his current therapist.

The problem is housing. Liz's brother lives in Northern Virginia, and needs to stay there because that is where his therapist is. (Among other reasons, but this therapist has been successful at getting Bro to take his meds.) Liz found Bro a room in a house that he could afford, but it turned out that the roommates were dealing drugs, and Bro didn't want to stay there. So he moved out and is now homeless.

I want to help Liz help her brother, and am wondering what resources might be available for a mid-20s adult adopted as an infant with mental health and developmental disability diagnoses in Northern Virginia.

Thanks for any help you can give!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


In just a few minutes I am going to dodge my neighbors who are putting up our building's sukkah (for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which follows shortly after Yom Kippur) so that I can GO SHOPPING! I'm off to Tar-jay for all of the bare necessities of parenting--a booster seat, a waterproof sheet, play dough... Any guesses how much I'll end up spending? Leave your guess in the comments and if I get enough responses, maybe I'll turn it into a contest. So leave your guess and what you think an appropriate prize would be for the winner.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pigs are flying

I'm licensed! Woah! Hooray! And it only took 55 weeks.

I got the email from Licensing Worker earlier today confirming that all is well and the license (do you all have actual paper licenses? I will, and I think I'm required to hang it in my home) will be mailed in a few weeks.

Lest you think that Licensing Worker actually displayed competence, however, in sending me the email, you should know that my new Support Worker called yesterday. (Okay, confession time. I didn't realize that the Support Worker had left me a message so I didn't realize this until after I got LW's email.)

Support Worker, on the other hand, has already defied my (very low) expectations. Hopefully the trend will continue. Support Worker, who will get a name, I assume, once I know her, left a message yesterday and when I didn't call her back, called me AGAIN today. None of this "let's leave it for a week and when she doesn't call back we'll just forget about it" stuff. And not only that, but she called at 4:45. On a Friday. She wasn't checked out and ready to get started on her weekend. No. She followed up. Late on Friday afternoon. Wow.

So Support Worker is coming to my apartment on Wednesday; I don't know why or what to expect, but now I KNOW that Sunday and Tuesday are going to be spent cleaning. Things have gotten, well, a little out of hand.

P.S. If you have any idea what I should be prepared for when Support Worker comes, please let me know!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


On Friday night I enjoyed Rosh Hashanah with a family I'm friends with. Mom, Dad, 4 boys, and Grandma. I love them all (though I don't really know Grandma). Dad and I gchat during the day, he can convince me to get up to go to shul at 7:30 in the morning on the occassional Shabbat, etc.


But Dad seems always to be yelling at the kids. I am sure that it is stressful raising four boys. I'm not there all the time. And I know it's not my place to comment on his parenting. But he'll yell at one or more of the boys to stop doing something, or to do something they're not doing, or to correct how they're doing something, and then not give the boys time to switch courses before he yells again.

And then I was at their home and it was all family except for me, so I don't know if the filter was off or it was just a more stressful time, but from the time I walked in the door it was awful. (For me.)

So we're enjoying dinner and at some point I excuse myself to use the bathroom (I know, TMI, but it's relevant). I'm sitting in the quiet and all of a sudden I realize why I'm so stressed--because I feel like I'm at home with my mother who didn't necessarily yell (and I don't recall doing anything wrong in my childhood anyway) but who was always negative, and my passive father who didn't do anything about it, and their friends who I now wonder if they were inwardly cringing the way I was last night. Woah. (Dad was also interacting with his mother the way my mom interacts with her mother-in-law.)

Crying in the bathroom, what a great way to start the year.

I finished reading How to Talk so Kids will Listen... this afternoon and want to slip it in their mail box anonymously. Probably not an effective plan.

While I was writing this, the boys' mom called and asked if I could pick up Boy4 from pre-school tomorrow so that she can take Grandma to the airport. So I'm excited about getting to spend a bit of quality time with him without his dad. I need to do that with each of the boys more often.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh, and...

Re: my last post, I am aware of the fact that I should mangle Jewish superstition and my love of all things West Wing and go outside, turn around three times, and spit.

You might be interested...

...in the email I just received from Licensing Worker's supervisor (She Deserved The Promotion Worker (SDTPW)):

Hi [Foster Ima],

I just wanted to let you know that the corrections have been made to your homestudy and and I have signed off on your file. Your file will now go to my Program Manager who will review your homestudy and sign it as well. Next, your license will be prepared and she will sign off on it, so I expect that you will be fully licensed and able to take a child by the end of the month.

You can feel free to email our placement office starting October 1st to let them know you have a vacancy in your home. The email address is [xxx].

The placement office typically works from a vacancy list; however, I am suggesting that you email because it usually takes a week or so once you are licensed to be added to the list, to be assigned a support worker and a relicensing worker.

Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is it possible?

I am hereby confessing to the blogosphere my naivete:

I spoke this afternoon with Licensing Worker's supervisor. Let's call her She Deserved The Promotion Worker (SDTPW)--she was the other worker who taught my training class and it was clear from day one that she was better than Licensing Worker. (Licensing Worker also took vacation the last two weeks of the class. But that's a different story.)

The unnecessary background is that I emailed Licensing Worker on Tuesday asking for an update; I received her out-of-office reply (that she would be out last week) which included that SDTPW is now her supervisor. So when I hadn't heard back from her by this morning, I emailed SDTPW--who then called me in response. Woohoo!

SDTPW tells me that my report is now on her desk and she will review it tomorrow. (Can I believe her? I hope so. Naivete #1.) After she reviews it and the only changes that need to be made are typographical (really? Licensing Worker is good enough that we can trust that? and she'll make them in a timely fashion? I'm feeling less confident already...), it goes to the program manager who should sign off on it "in the next week or so." Oh please.

So perhaps, just maybe, it is possible that with the start of the new year, I will have my license. With help from the external Absolute.

School Choices

I'm on day three of revising a four-page document, and on my fifth-to-last day of work, so of course I'm searching out procrastination. No, this is not why I'm on my fifth-to-last day of work.

I don't recall if I've written about school before, but since the issue came up in a comment (okay, since I brought the issue up in a comment), I thought I'd write about it. It is, after all, related to what I am doing for the next five days, if not to the document that I am supposed to be working on.

My Big City has some really good public schools and a lot of really bad public schools, with a very active reform effort to improve all of the schools. We also have more school choice than is reasonable. That is, there is a very vibrant out-of-boundary lottery as well as a very large charter school community, so a parent can, theoretically, change his or her mind about what school his or her kid goes to every year. I saw that this happens, among parents who are very commited to their kids' education, despite research (that I don't know where to find at the moment) that changing schools is bad for kids' performance. I was at a community meeting where a parent was incensed that her kids' school was being closed and the kid was therefore going to have to go somewhere new. Her son was in kindergarten and in his third school. (I should note that the new school was three blocks away and would have the same teachers, along with others, just not the same building.)

All this is to say:
1. A foster kid who changes schools with a new placement isn't necessarily experiencing more school disruptions than a kid who has lived in the same house his or her entire life. (Not that this justifies changing schools regularly.)
2. Our school system is set up to accommodate students who go to school outside of their neighborhood.

The school placement of a foster kid is the decision of the social worker. I understand that as a foster parent I won't have the authority to make decisions in this area. However, I am absolutely certain that if a foster parent said "I won't drive little Shaniqua to her current school" (or "I won't take little Shaniqua on the bus to her current school") that the social worker would say "fine, she'll go to your neighborhood school."

Which makes me think that I will have at least some say in the matter.

It happens that my neighborhood school is one of the good ones. And that it is very likely that whatever neighborhood school my foster kiddos are coming from, it won't be as good as mine. But that doesn't necessarily mean that switching schools will be the best decision in every case. I do think that by living where I do, with a good neighborhood school, the decision about school placement will be more difficult.

Yet I feel like once again I am going to be the exception, allowing the social worker to prioritize stability when that is the best option even when the school itself is worse, when my suspicion is that most foster parents in my city won't make the sacrifice to take their foster kids to a school in another part of the city, even when the schools are equally poor and stability is the only thing going for their education.

[And yet it has been over a year and I'm still not licensed. Why?]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Life Books

I know that I've read some posts recently (in the last four or so months, probably) about life books, but don't remember on whose blogs. Sorry for not referring back to you; I would if I could keep these things straight in my mind. (Actually, I might have posted myself about them. Who knows.)

Anyway, in my blog reader this evening I learned that My Agency is soliciting donations of scrapbooking supplies to help kids in care make life books. Great. I think that life books are a fabulous idea. I have a few concerns about making a huge deal about how "KIDS IN CARE SHOULD HAVE LIFE BOOKS!! WE'RE WONDERFUL FOR THINKING ABOUT THIS!!" Sure, a life book has more--or different--things in it than your typical kid's scrapbook is likely to have. But does it have to have its own special name?

Rant #1 over. This post is supposed to be about rant #2, starting now:

Why does My Agency have to have this special initiative, instead of, oh, dedicating a few resources to helping foster parents understand the importance of life books? What are they going to do, mandate that kids come in to the Agency to work on their life books with their social worker? It's not like they're going to distribute the scrapbooking materials that they receive to the homes where kids are living. And really, how expensive are the materials anyway? My jurisdiction is one of the best in terms of reimbursement rates, so I'd think that a few pairs of scissors, some glue, and fancy paper wouldn't break the bank.

Wow, I'm cynical tonight. Maybe I just feel affronted because I knew from the start that I would want to make scrapbooks or memory books for/with the kiddos in my home and didn't need the lesson on life books during our training to tell me that they are a good idea.

Okay, rant #2 over. Feel free to tell me in the comments about how your agencies don't do anything to support life books, so this initiative would be welcome where you are, or how foster parents need the extra prodding or assistance to make sure that kids have life books, or how there is a fundamental difference between life books and scrapbooks and how dare I minimize the importance of life books.

What will the kiddos call me?

This is a question that I've been mulling over for longer than I've been trying to get licensed. I had hoped that in my training class, they might have addressed practical questions like this.

Until yesterday, I had been floating three ideas:
1. My first name
2. Mama [My first name]
3. Ima [My first name]

But then inspiration struck. I have a little friend (Boy4--at least for now) who just turned 3 on Sunday. He can't quite say my name. Now, let's say my name were "Jenny" (it's not). Boy4 calls me "Munny." (If my name were "Serena" he would call me "Murena.") Which seems a great combination of "Mama" and my name. Plus, it's so adorable when Boy4 does it, but he is slowly growing out of it. (His parents, however, are slowing that process by no longer using my correct name :-) )

On the other hand, it might be strange for a kiddo to come into my home and have me kneel down to introduce myself and say "Hi, I'm Munny."

Yeah, maybe this requires more thought.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Answers, part 5

SocialWrkr24/7 asked a follow-up question: is adoption a possibility? (I've paraphrased because for some reason, I'm too lazy to copy and paste from the comment. But not too lazy to type two entire sentences about my laziness.)

As I told Licensing Worker during my home study, I'm really more interested in the fostering piece. I want to be there for the kids and their parents until reunification can happen. If it can happen. I know there aren't enough adoptive parents out there either, but if I adopt, then I'm out of the rotation (so to speak) for foster kids, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a bigger shortage of foster parents.

Now, what happens when kiddo #1 comes along, and I fall in love, and reunification can't happen? Ask me then if adoption is a possibility :-)

P.S. I should add, lest anyone have this thought in the back of their mind--my Big City has fairly good post-adoption support. So that isn't a factor that would have me saying "ooh, let's mess kids up more so I can foster longer." (I hope you all realize, of course, that nothing would have me intentionally deciding to mess kids up!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Answers, part 4

I suppose I should save some of these questions for later, rather than inundating you with--what is it?--six? posts today. But that's too rational for me.

Sarsmile asked what I'm going to do about Christian holidays. I alluded to this way back in the beginning in a post that no one would be expected to remember or, more importantly, find. I could only find it because I had tagged it with "Christianity" and until this one, there were only two posts with that tag. Oh, you want a link to it? Here it is. It's way down at the bottom, the second footnote.

So yes, Christmas is definitely going to be done. I've got some decorations already and am looking forward to a party to decorate the apartment. We might have to go without a tree, but the kiddo will just have to deal. (The callousness is intended to be sarcastic.) Honestly, I just don't know how to buy a tree, put it in the stand, make sure it isn't a fire hazard...

Specifics of church vs no church vs which church will have to be addressed on a kid by kid basis. Obviously, it would be nicer if the answer is no church. Not having Saturday for errands and such, if half of Sunday were then taken up by church, things could be difficult. The time that we could spend going to museums and the park and having play dates instead will be spent grocery shopping and cleaning and being boring. But it will depend on the kid's church-going background and any direction from the kid's biofamily, though as long as the kid actually is Christian, we'll undoubtedly end up going to church on occasion for cultural reasons.

Answers, part 3

SocialWrkr24/7 asked:

I'd like to know WHY you've decided to be a foster parent. Especially - why you've decided to do it as a single person. And, if I haven't already gotten too personal... what the steps were in preparing yourself (living space, finances, telling family/friends etc) for actually doing it!

This is going to be a fun question to answer because there are so many parts, and I like to talk about myself. (Speaking of which, I find it SO HARD not to talk to my real life friends about having this blog. I almost spilled the beans this morning, but was very proud of myself for holding my tongue.)

1. Why I decided to be a foster parent.

When I was in college, one of the community service organizations I was in had a weekly volunteer day at Faith House (yes, I'm giving away the city in which I went to college). I didn't start going until second semester senior year but as soon as I did, I was just in love with the kids. If you poke around their website, you'll see that it is a FIFTY-FOUR bed facility. And while the organization does foster parent training, there are kids who live at Faith House more or less indefinitely because there aren't foster homes for them.

Well, this just broke my heart. How could there not be homes for these adorable kids (who, I should add, were very well-behaved, at least while I was there--though they did get yelled at by staff when they tried to play with my hair...which I enjoyed them doing but was apparently against the rules)? Ever since then, my One Defined Goal has been to be a foster parent.

2. Why do it while single?

Okay, confession time. The last guy I dated was six years ago. Really. So it's not like being a foster parent is going to negatively impact my vibrant dating life. And if I waited until I had a partner, who's to say that the partner would be interested in fostering? No, better to do it now. It can only have a positive impact on my personal life. I will be forced to adapt to a life where I'm not the center of my attention and where I have to communicate well--traits that will help in a dating relationship. And maybe fostering will attract someone, who knows?

There was a while when I didn't think I was going to be able to foster until I had a partner because I didn't see how I was going to be able to afford a two-bedroom home on a single income. Housing prices are high where I live, and with my income, I would qualify for only a $xx mortgage. (No, silly, not a two-digit number.) Two-bedroom condos where I live go for about 2 times $xx. But friends with a two-bedroom apartment in a super-affordable building were moving, so I snatched it up from them. I don't have the feeling of accomplishment that I think I would have if I were a homeowner, but ultimately I'm saving a lot of money over if I owned the same amount of space.

3. How I prepared.

Since this has been my goal for more than ten years now, I've been doing a lot of preparing. For a while, I was imposing steps for myself--I have to make a budget. I have to eat vegetables with dinner every day. I have to wash the dishes every day.--to prove to myself that I'm responsible enough to take care of a kid. But once the two-bedroom apartment was a reality, all those went out the window.

Partially, this is possible only because I have a financial cushion and I am unintentionally quite frugal. (By that I mean that I happen to spend less than I make usually, because I don't eat out much and I don't go to movies and I'm too cheap to do more expensive activities.) I'm very lucky in that respect.

Living space I think I've answered already.

My friends I basically told when they each said something to the effect of "wow, a 2 bedroom apartment! Are you going to have a roommate?" The word has spread (of course, there has been plenty of time for it to spread!) as my friends tell other people.

I was most nervous about telling my parents. I thought they would accuse me of having not thought through it, that I hadn't thought of all of the logistical implications of single parenting and of parenting foster kids in particular. I thought they would bring up my cousin, who was adopted as an older child (he's much older than me, so I don't know how old "older" was in his case) and isn't really part of the family anymore. So after they had made comments about "their bedroom" in my new apartment, I screwed up my courage to talk to them. They live only an hour from me, so I went to their house and when we sat down to dinner, I told them that the second bedroom wasn't for them, it was for a foster child. Their reaction was much different than I expected. The first thing my mom said was "oh good, we'll have another kid here for Thanksgiving."

So there you have it. Anything else you want to know? :-)

Answers, part 2

Thorn asked: "I am curious how you and your agency are preparing to handle whatever Shabbat observance you keep. I mean, if they have a placement late Friday night, do they just not call you? How you plan to connect those two parts of your life is very interesting to me."

There are two parts to this question. One, how will the agency handle it. Two, how will I handle it.

The agency won't do anything special because of my Shabbat observance. If they call with a placement, I just won't answer the phone. If they try to schedule visits with the kiddo's family on Saturday, we'll see if it can be closer to my home (not AT my home!) or on another day of the week. Or if the social worker can take Kiddo to the visit.

How I handle it is obviously a more complex issue. I will say, first, that I will not be forcing any kiddo in my home to refrain from the things that I refrain from on Shabbat (turning lights on and off, using the phone, watching TV, using the computer, drawing), though some limits might be necessary out of practicality--e.g. if the kid is three and doesn't know how to turn the TV on, or the like, then she won't be watching TV on Shabbat. So while I will try to make sure that visits aren't on Shabbat, the kiddo will be more than welcome (circumstances permitting) to talk to family on the phone.

I also go to synagogue regularly (well, more recently I have been sleeping through synagogue regularly, but that's not my ideal), especially on Saturday mornings. I plan to continue doing this when I have a kiddo, but again, it will depend on the kid. If the kid can sit quietly with a book and toys for a half hour, we'll try going to services late, taking a run around break, coming back for the end. If the kid can't sit quietly at all, I'll get a babysitter one or two weeks a month and skip services the other times. (For those who don't know, Jewish services--at least on the more traditional side of the spectrum--are very conducive to coming late. I've not been to church since a few high school choral performances but I think that church is more formal in that respect. In contrast, it's not at all unusual for people to trickle in throughout a Shabbat morning service.)

Emergencies always take precedence over Shabbat observance, so if a kiddo is raging or doing something else that I need support to deal with, I will use the phone to get help.

I'm not sure off the top of my head what other Shabbat issues there will be. One smaller issue is classmates' birthday parties or other play dates. These could be a problem. But this implicates another issue, which is school, so in the interests of not going on too much about school, I'll leave this question for another day.

Thanks for the question!

What was that about being bored?

No, I don't actually have any real news on the licensing front. But I did just have a good conversation with the Chief of Staff at the Agency. She thanked me for sticking with the process all this time (we're at a year now, officially--yesterday was the anniversary of my first training class) and said she would look into whether there are other issues with the people who been involved in my long, drawn-out drama.

She also told me that someone else who works for my local government went through the process lickety split. Hmmm...

I got some more good questions, so another post coming soon.

Student Grievance Procedures

Okay, using the blog for work purposes. Me and my over-familiarity with researching state laws aren't so good with finding things on a local level. No, that's not really true. It's that there are too many local levels and I get a little overwhelmed.

I am trying to write a grievance procedure for students in my Big City's public schools. I'm actually not sure that there's anything wrong with the current procedure, but am looking for models of procedures to compare it to. Does your school system have a good policy for kids who have complaints? Does it distinguish well/clearly from the appeals procedure for disciplinary actions?

If you have a model I can look at, please email me at FrumFosterMom at gmail dot com. I assure you that I will then promptly forget where you live.


Answers, part 1

Mama Drama-Times Two asked, in response to my plea for questions, why I'm using a private agency instead of my state's Big Social Service Agency.

An interesting question, because I didn't realize that I had given the impression that I'm using a private agency. I know only how things work here, and am nervous that any details I give will be used by someone with more experience to say "aha! You gave away where you live!" So if, for example, I were to respond to say, "well, actually, I am using my state's Big Social Service Agency, and that in fact is the only option for someone who lives where I live who wants to be a foster parent," would that give it away?

Because that is the true answer. Please, pretty please with a cherry on top, if that does give away my secret location, let me know.

More answer(s) later. Keep the questions coming!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Am I boring you yet?

I've been blogging here since April. In that time, I've complained about my agency repeatedly, asked for a little advice, and not written anything about kiddos because I still don't have one. I'd like to keep my readers, and not bore you to tears...

But when the most exciting event of the day relating to foster care is finding a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (this evening's success--that, along with finally remember which days of the week the library is open late), it doesn't make for exciting blogging.

So to be completely unoriginal--do you have any questions you're dying to ask me? Maybe you have questions about Judaism, or about why I'm putting up with my agency's remarkable ineptitude, or ... I'll do my best to answer.

Parenting Magazine FAIL

Back when I was having my window issue (see how I'm optimistically assuming my window issue is over? this is what gets me in trouble), I ordered some window-stoppers from a catalog online. When I was finishing the check-out process, I discovered that I got a bonus magazine subscription with my order. Woohoo! There were only two options, and I chose the one that looked like it would be more relevant when I finally get a kiddo.

I got the first issue the other day, and read it through last night. The first thing I noticed was the very cute white girl on the cover. Of course, if there is going to be only one kid on the cover, that kid has to be some race, excluding all others, and if there is a group of kids on the cover, and there are four of them in a rainbow of colors, it looks intentionally diverse, which doesn't help either. I get that. But every picture, with the possible exception of an ad or two, was of a cute white kid. Every one.

But that's not actually what got to me the most.

No, what got to me was the ad for the Corn Refiners Association (or something to that effect). High fructose corn syrup didn't make you obese; going back for thirds is what made you obese.

What is a parenting magazine doing accepting advertising from a lobbying group whose product HARMS CHILDREN. No, I am not going to go and do the research to find the reports that prove this. Yes, that is lazy and intellectually dishonest. But we all know that we should at least be trying to instill good nutritional habits in our kids. And high fructose corn syrup just doesn't fit in that equation.

I'm glad I'm not paying for the magazine.