Thursday, December 23, 2010
I have found myself more and more desirous of engaging in some other twitter conversations (local stuff) and wanting to unprotect my tweets, so I bit the bullet and created a second twitter personality. And you can follow me there! @fosterima (http://twitter.com/fosterima), not that this is such a surprising name. Much more timely, much less rambly updates.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tonight was our Christmas, as she is spending the next two weeks in another state with family and her godmother. I got some blog-able photos:
Odessa liked her presents--including the underwear, which she had asked for, and the socks, which I bought because I noticed her wearing mis-matched socks quite frequently. Gotta like a teenager who is happy to get socks for Christmas! I also bought her some books and DVDs, and a word-a-day calendar. When she gets back at the end of her winter break, there will be (hopefully!) a quilt, a scarf, and a tote bag all waiting for her, along with two necklaces that I've made already, some personalized stationery (ordered but not yet shipped to me), and probably a Starbuck$ gift card. I opted against luggage once I realized just how expensive it is, and against a computer now that I've learned how expensive teenagers are. We'll see how long Odessa ends up spending with me, and luggage and a computer could be good graduation presents.
Friday, December 10, 2010
- "cute draws" (she asked for these; I bought them last night, hooray for suburbs)
- socks (she has been wearing mismatched socks; I don't know if it's a fashion statement or a lack of socks. I bought three pairs of cute regular socks and three pairs of knee-highs.)
- two pairs of not-at-all-subtle tights (also bought last night)
- a word-a-day calendar because she asked me to help her learn a new word a week.
- two necklaces that I am going to make (I have the beads and chains, just need to make them)
- books (from the used book store, I think, since I can get more books for less there)
- a going-to-college-sized suitcase
- a quilt that I will make
- if I have time, I will knit her a scarf
She wants a digital camera, an iPod, and a laptop. I might get her a netbook if the budget allows, since this was the very first thing I thought about getting her. She has a bit of an entitlement issue (all teenagers do, and being in care I think contributes to it) so I'm a little torn about it, but I think it really will come down to budget rather than to attitude.
This list doesn't include little things that I'm sure I'll pick up over the next few weeks. But if you have any other good ideas for presents, I'm all ears!
Anyway, WOW is raising a teenager different than raising a little one. For example, you KNOW that you are going to have to drive all the way across the Big City to pick up the five year old from school. With a teenager, it's more of a last-minute thing.
Also? Natural consequences are a lot easier for teenager infractions. You're late for curfew? Your curfew is an hour earlier for the next week. You forget your key? You wait in the lobby 'til I get home. You're late for dinner? Dinner is cold.
Still, while my schedule is thrown into turmoil even more by Odessa than it was by Sabrina (see below), at least I can leave her at home alone (not sure this is legal, actually, but give me a break. I'm not getting a "babysitter" for my 17 year old so she can sit at home and do homework.
So, my schedule. Odessa lost her key. She was staying in the 'burbs with a woman she calls "mom"--the home where she is intended to go as soon as "mom" is licensed--for two days while I was visiting my sister and nephew. Tuesday she calls me after school and tells me that she forgot her key and was hungry and irritated. After another day I learned that there was more to the story, which also included why she couldn't go to the 7-11 and get a snack, but after a short conversation, we simply agreed that she would be home by 6:45. At 7:45 she sauntered in apologizing for being late. (She was also home over an hour past curfew on Saturday.) And then we had to drive to the 'burbs to get her key. Now, she had TOLD me that she had "forgotten" her key. No, she had lost her key. Not at "mom"'s house, at least not that any of the three of us could find. (I'm pretty sure that if she emptied out everything from her school bag, she'd find it. Oh well.) Consequence? The next day she would wait in the lobby for me to get home (as mentioned above). She took a snack with her to school to eat after school. And I would get a key made that evening. Instead, she had also lost her farecard for public transportation. On Saturday. But hadn't told me. So Wednesday afternoon she no longer had money to get home. She reluctantly told me, and then I had to drive across the city to pick her up. I had an appointment with my support worker that evening, so I couldn't go until after the appointment. I picked her up at about 7:15, by which time the hardware stores are all closed!
Last night, finally, I was able to go to (different) suburbs where I found a hardware store open until 9. What a relief! (Odessa was also late last night, but that was because she was with Wendy, her GAL, following a regular court hearing.) So Odessa now has another key (on a key chain that can attach to her belt loops) and there are Christmas presents under the tree. (See next post.)
Odessa really is great; all of this long rambling isn't complaint, just chronicling that she really is, in fact, a teenager! :-)
Okay, off to jot a quick post about Christmas and then I suppose I should get back to work.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I was told that a licensing worker needed to come see my apartment. Fine, whatever. I offered for the licensing worker to come yesterday afternoon. No, they thought this morning would be better. Because of course Odessa, who has been in more than three homes in the past year, isn't being inconvenienced at all.
Wendy (the GAL, remember) and I spoke last night when she called to tell me how much she hates the Agency. She was told 1. that I didn't have a bed available and 2. they were meeting with me at that moment. "Foster Ima, they flat out lied to me!" (Not that she was surprised.)
So this morning the licensing worker came. She was 45 minutes late. She called from the lobby of my building at 35 minutes late, then had to move her car in the parking lot, and that took ten minutes. Don't ask me how. She did tell me that she "was on the wrong 5th St." (I don't live on "5th St." but that's kind of the parallel.) Brilliant.
The first comment she made about my apartment was "you have a lot of stuff. We don't like a lot of stuff."
She looked at the room-that-will-be-Odessa's, went to the bathroom, and then looked at the room again. At which point she told me "this room is stark and uninviting. This is a teenager we're talking about. We don't want her falling into a depression because the room isn't welcoming." Because I should have the room decorated already for a teenager who I don't know and who probably has pretty set preferences? I was a bit indignant because of the worker's tone, and explained that we would be going to the store together to get things for her. At which point the worker's negative attitude changed 100% to how wonderful I am. What the heck.
So Odessa should be coming tonight, at last, but I haven't heard anything back from her worker yet today, which she told me yesterday I would.
I typed up the house rules; there are only five, though there are an additional two about food and an additional three (one plus specifics) about having friends over. The first rule is my favorite: don't do anything illegal. I think that pretty much sums it up, right? ;-)
OH! Related to house rules, a quick request for more advice: Odessa has a pay-as-you-go cell phone. While at her group home, she has gotten a few dollars here and there for various things--that is, not enough to keep her phone paid for. I want her to be able to call or text me (and to be able to call or text her) reliably. I don't know what company her phone is through, but do any of you have recommendations for the most economical but reliable way to make sure that she is able to use her phone to reach me but I don't end up spending a ridiculous amount on her calling/texting friends? (To clarify: she can call or text her friends, but some pay-as-you-go "plans" have per-minute, per-text charges, and I've heard rumors that teenagers can really rack up the minutes. I don't mind paying for reasonable usage, but...) Any tips on navigating this?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Her bedroom still looks like bubble gum vomited, but I put a blue blanket on the bed, so that tempers the pink-ness a bit. The play kitchen is still in the room, too. I just don't know what else to do with it.
In taking down the letters to Sabrina's name from the wall, it occurred to me that a better blog name for Odessa would have been "Gabri." That is, four of the letters in their names are the same. Anyone who knows Sabrina's real name is invited to guess Odessa's real name. Just not in the comments :-)
Last night's panic while finishing getting Odessa's room minimally ready for her? I only have kid-sized hangers in her closet. Add that to the Tar-jay list.
Trying to decide on a real tree or a fake tree for Christmas. I've never in my life dealt with a real tree, but the problem with a fake tree is storage. (Anyone have thoughts on self-storage places? This might help with the play kitchen, stroller, and passover dishes...) I'm wondering how it is that Sabrina and I never decorated last year. I had been so excited about having a reason to decorate, and then we didn't. Huh.
Thanks for the advice on house rules. I think I've got at least that small piece of things under control. (The ONLY thing I think I have under control.)
*I don't think I've ever given the GAL a blog name, but since it may end up that she and I have a longer partnership--that is, I might get all of my placements through her!--I should give her a name. Let's call her Wendy. (A name that really doesn't suit her, but follows my pattern of word association.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I am nervous for the following reasons:
1. I haven't really contemplated the possibility of parenting a teenager. At all. So I am starting from ground zero in terms of coming up with house rules appropriate for a 17 year old. Any recommendations are very welcome.
2. My apartment is a complete disaster area. Not kidding. My depression has been in full swing for the last few weeks and so there are dirty dishes EVERYWHERE and a dead fish on the dining room table and just STUFF. I've just begged on facebook for a friend or two to come over on Friday to help me clean. I've promised money, food, and alcohol. I sure hope my plea works.
3. The bedroom is really decorated for a 5 year old girl. I should at least take the fabric letters of Sabrina's name off the wall. And maybe find something to do with the play kitchen.
4. Uh, I really was going to take a break until I got my life more together. (Yeah right, when does that ever happen?) And I only started to pull out of feeling terrible on Sunday. So what am I doing agreeing to take another kid?
5. Odessa apparently has a habit of absconding on weekends. She always (*cough* almost always) comes back for school on Monday morning, but I do worry about this piece.
Anyway, I got a bunch of details from her GAL who is the one who asked me if I could take her. (Her GAL is Sabrina's GAL, hence the connection.) It ought to be a short-term placement; there is another woman who is interested in being her foster mom--they know each other already but I didn't catch the details when the GAL told them to me--but that woman isn't licensed yet. In the meantime, Odessa's group home is closing at the end of the month.
So here we are. I'll let you all know if Odessa ends up coming to me!
Friday, November 5, 2010
1. Sending her an email asking her to recommend someone else, or
2. Making an appointment and asking her then?
(Relatedly, my therapist's next available appointment is Dec. 2--I had to cancel an appointment back in August, then in September, and didn't make another appointment right away. Because I don't find her helpful.)
Thanks for the advice!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Thursday we shared a banana split for dinner (calcium, fruit, you know, not too bad for us!) and packed a bit more.
Friday we took a bunch of her things to school with us, then we went on a field trip (SO MUCH FUN!) and I tried to soak up all the great times. When we got back from the field trip, all the kids whose moms went with us went home early, and I stayed at school with Sabrina, the one girl who went on the trip without a parent, and the three kids from the class who didn't go on the trip. Her social worker picked her up at the end of the day, we all walked to the social worker's car, and then I had almost no opportunity for a good goodbye.
However, I still have a bunch of Sabrina's things, so I am going over tonight to take them. I hope that dad will let me have a few minutes with her. And I hope that dad doesn't get rid of her things.
But you don't care about the logistics. You care about how I'm doing. My friends on facebook have said all sorts of sappy things about how special I am and how much of a difference I made in Sabrina's life and how admirable it is that I did this... Gag me. :-)
Honestly, though, despite the bit of denial, I think I'm okay with this transition. I've known since day two that Sabrina would end up with family. And she spent every weekend and all summer with her dad. So it isn't like I've had an adorable five year old appendage all week every week for the past 11 months and now there's an emptiness in my apartment.
At the same time, though, I was shopping yesterday for a piece of Sabrina's Halloween costume (her dad and I agreed that I would handle the costume) and kept seeing things that Sabrina would like, and had to remind myself that I shouldn't buy them.
I won't be asking to be put on the vacancy list for a little while, as I need to really dedicate myself to straightening my life out, so in the meantime I emailed Sabrina's GAL (who asked me before court on Wednesday, "should we be talking about your next placement?" This before anything was official. I think she has some kids who aren't in ideal settings for them) to ask if she has any kids who would appreciate and/or benefit from a family Thanksgiving. I know that my parents would be okay with an additional guest for the day. So we'll see how she responds.
And that's where things are for now.
(I'll post about Sabrina going home later. I'm still traveling down that river in Egypt...)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
There is a hearing in an hour and a half in Sabrina's mom's case. I haven't yet spoken with Sabrina's GAL (a bit of phone tag) so I don't know what she is going to recommend, but I have been steeling myself for the possibility that the judge will allow Sabrina to live with her dad. I've also been steeling myself for dad to be P-I-$-$-E-D if the judge says no, on account of his new apartment having only one bedroom. But dad does have a new apartment, in the Big City, which takes his home county (in another state) out of the equation.
I talked to Sabrina last night about the possibility that she would go live with her dad. I'm absolutely positive that I didn't handle the conversation as well as I should have. I'm not absolutely positive that bringing it up was a good idea at all. I suppose that I'll regret it if the judge says she has to stay with me, and be glad I did it if she gets to live with dad.
My big logistical hopes for her in the event that she gets to live with her dad are that he lets her stay at her current school (which is terrible, but no worse than the neighborhood school where dad's apartment is, and she has friends there) and that he is able to take her to ballet. She starts ballet this afternoon and she is nervous about it, but I am pretty sure that she will love it once she sees that she won't be performing on stage in front of an audience today. I reassured her that I get nervous before I do something for the first time, too.
And because it wouldn't be a Sabrina-related post if I didn't complain about the back and forth with dad at least once: somehow we have three winter coats at my house (I bought none of them) and zero fall/spring jackets (I bought two). Weather today? Definitely jacket weather. Oh well.
And now, to wait and see what happens at court...
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I talked to dad on the phone yesterday from his new cell phone (I had tried texting him on Wednesday and got an out of service reply--isn't the beauty of pre-paid phones that you even if you let the payment lapse, you still have the phone and can just put more money on it? I wonder why he got a new phone) when the school called me at about 11:30 (I missed the calls from the school because I was chatting with a coworker and only happened to get back to my desk right before he called from his cell phone; I wonder how many times they were going to try to reach me if I had been out at a meeting or something) to ask if he had permission to pick her up. I guess the principal was out and so the administrator who was there didn't know that he picks her up on Fridays and didn't look at any of the many forms I provided stating that he picks her up on Fridays. But I'm glad that they called because otherwise I wouldn't have known that he was picking her up early. Why, I asked him. Oh, "we have some things to take care of." Could he BE any vaguer? Frustrating.
He and I talked about Sabrina's extremely expensive field trip that is in two weeks. Sabrina told me she wanted her dad to go with her, I wanted to be the one to go with her, I talked to dad and he doesn't want to take off from work. Good, that means that I'm paying $40 to enjoy the farm with Sabrina, not paying $40 and not getting to enjoy the farm. Yes, it's $20/person to go to a farm. And each kid has to have an adult. I'm fine with the field trip. (Though to be honest there are more educational farm trips than this one.) I'm fine with the requirement that each kid have a grown up with them. I can afford the field trip. But Sabrina's school is incredibly low income. (Last year, 159 students were tested for NCLB requirements. 138 qualified as economically disadvantaged.) And they are planning field trips that cost FORTY DOLLARS??? (The school also has a thing against checks; I don't want to make a special trip to the ATM just to pay for a field trip.)
I signed Sabrina up for ballet. Our city recreation department only offers ballet at one rec center which is about as far from her school as possible while still being in the city. I'll have to take off work to take her to class, but I'm going to be royally annoyed if her dad decides not to take her (if he gets custody, that is).
I'll also be royally annoyed if he switches her school to the neighborhood school where his apartment is, since the plan all along has been that he will move back to his parents' house with Sabrina after the agency closes the case, and I don't want her to have an extra change of schools after I was told that I couldn't enroll her in the better school where I live because she was going to go live with dad.
Among the many things on my to-do list for this weekend is to buy the makings for Sabrina's Halloween costume. Dad and I agreed that I could deal with the costume. She wants to be Tinkerbell, which she apparently was last year as well.
I ordered the materials to make Christmas presents for her female relatives, though I have no idea what she should do for her dad and grandpa. For the women in the family, I am going to print photos of Sabrina onto shrinky dink paper (which they make for inkjet printers, believe it or not), punch holes, bake, and turn into necklaces. Any ideas for the men?
And that's where things are :-)
Monday, October 4, 2010
And even more excitingly, last week was the first time that she responded "I love you, too" when I told her that I love her!
Sadly, our fish Tracy passed away this weekend. Contrary to my expectation, dead fish do not all float. I have left Tracy for Sabrina to see, and she and I will go to replace Tracy (if Sabrina wants) on Wednesday. (Today we have to stop by the Agency because my worker hasn't seen me in a while and she's required to, and tomorrow we're having friends over for dinner.)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
But this morning, she asked me "are you my foster mother?"
I don't know who has been using that phrase with her, but she and I are clearly on the same wavelength!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This morning in the car Sabrina was singing something along the lines of "I like your funk. I like your funk. I like you [something else]. I like your [the same something else]. I like your funk. I like your funk...." And she went straight from that into Miss Mary Mack.
This evening Sabrina was practicing writing her name and after she wrote one of the letters stood up on her chair and said "I've got it goin' on!"
And one gripe:
While at her dad's house this weekend, Sabrina got a lunchbox. (Not actually a lunchbox, to be honest, but a tin box that LOOKS like a lunchbox.) Today she asked me if she could take a snack to school in it. A snack, mind you. Not lunch. The one time that I packed a lunch for her last year because she asked me to, she didn't eat it. She eats school lunch. I think everyone at her school eats school lunch. Anyway, a snack. I figured she wanted it for aftercare. I packed her a package of those horrid pre-cheesed crackers, grapes, and a juice. When I picked her up from school, she said "My teacher told me you need to give me a sandwich." Excuse me? 1. It wasn't supposed to be her lunch. 2. A lunch doesn't need to have a sandwich. 3. I'm tired of everyone at her school implying that I'm not a good parent figure. (Paranoid much? This morning the aide from Sabrina's pre-k class saw that she needed to wash her face--she had a bit of a milk beard, to be honest, and I had let it slide since I didn't notice it until we were in the car--and did that annoying mother thing of rubbing her thumb on Sabrina's face and then dragging her to the bathroom.) Wow, didn't mean to gripe for that long. Anyway, we went to the grocery store to buy lunch-appropriate foods, so if she doesn't want it anymore, I'm going to be (a little) annoyed.
Off to get tomorrow's lunch ready.
So this morning she apologized for not calling--totally reasonable, she intended to call me over the weekend but is caring for her ill mother and didn't get around to it--and then promptly said "you can support what we are doing in class by doing the homework." At that point I explained that we were spending a half hour on it and not finishing it, that we have only an hour and a half between getting home and bedtime, and I'm the only adult in the house and just can't prepare dinner and help with homework at the same time. I also explained that we talk about school in the car (for example, yesterday's homework included finding words that start with "F" so we brainstormed those words, as well as other things like rhyming and opposites) but she can't write in the car! I agreed with her that Sabrina does need practice with writing but was just feeling hamstrung by not having enough time in the day. So we agreed that we could switch back and forth between reading and math homework, and I think we're doing to focus on writing more instead of the finding pictures part.
She also told me that by the end of the year, the kids are expected to be able to count by 2s and 5s to 110 (why 110, and not 100, is beyond me). And after they get to 20 (2 more weeks), the next project is to learn their address and phone number. After last Thursday's adventure with mom, I'm a little nervous about teaching her our address! She knows the apartment number and recognizes the building, and I did already start working on teaching her my street name, and it's super important for safety reasons for kids to know their address. But I'm nervous anyway. I told her teacher that I'm a little nervous about it, and we'll just figure something out, whether it's teaching her my address despite my nervousness, or teaching her her dad's address.
Or maybe dad will have moved to my big city by then?
Who am I kidding.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Sabrina got some sort of talking-to at school today about her homework not being done; I'm not sure if it was a "YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK OR YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE" type of talking to or if it was a "sweetie, you need to listen to your foster mom when she tells you to do your homework" type of talking to, but it's the only thing that Sabrina told me about school today.
We did most of her homework, meanwhile I forgot to cook dinner so we had cereal with fruit because if we get home at 6:30 and bedtime is 8:00 and homework takes over a half hour and I'm the only adult in the house... We skipped bathtime tonight because we just didn't have time. Tomorrow night the GAL is coming over so maybe she can help Sabrina with her homework while I make dinner. There truly are not enough hours in the day.
Now, if I could get the social worker to allow me to enroll Sabrina in my much better and much closer neighborhood school, we'd have an hour and a half extra each day plus she'd get to spend two hours with a babysitter doing homework and fun things instead of aftercare. I know that that the school year has now started already, but a week in shouldn't be too bad a time to switch, right? (I don't think I have any readers who think I foster "for the money" but in case I do: I just spent over $100 on school uniforms for the current school that she won't need if she switches to my neighborhood school, and aftercare at her current school is free but I would need to pay a babysitter if she goes to the neighborhood school. Still I want her to go to my neighborhood school for her own benefit.)
I need a second grown up in the house, and then I need that person to keep me on task, limit my computer time, and tell me when to go to bed. Because I really should NOT be up right now!
Happy first week of school!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
So please don't think that I am actively seeking out ways to get the baby into my hot little hands.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Kindergarten homework is going to kill me. Kids are still too young for homework. And what's up with no nap for 5 year olds in full day kindergarten? I went to half-day kindergarten and we had a nap period that was more than just putting our heads on our desks.
Oh yeah, homework. I have issues with it, but at least it is reasonable. (So far.) Practice writing your name. Write the letter A and a. Write the numbers 0 and 1. Okay, so Sabrina had a meltdown when asked to write her name, making the rest of it a little touch and go. (She wrote--traced, actually--her name once, not the recommended three times, and didn't write the letters OR the numbers.) But the rest of it. Oh, the rest of it. Cut out or draw three pictures of words starting with the letter A. Cut out or draw three pictures representing the numbers 0 and 1.
First: lawyer magazines? Great for words starting with A if you are an adult (ooh, there's another one): abacus (in an ad...and yet another one!), attorney (not obvious from the pictures but hey, it was a lawyer magazine), Alan Greenspan. Not so good if you're in kindergarten. (Here I insert another aside: I'm flipping through the magazine and come across the abacus picture. I say out loud "oh, an abacus. If I give you this one, your teacher will know that I helped you. Because five year olds don't know what an abacus is." To which Sabrina replied, "I know what it is." Me: "Really?" S: "Yes, it's like the monument." Me: "Oh close, that's an OBELISK." I'm on a mission to make Sabrina the only kid in kindergarten who knows what an obelisk is.)
Second: Lands End? Sells a lot of things that start with B. We'll be all set tomorrow. Today? Not so much.
Third: IKEA? Also not helpful.
Fourth: I don't have anything else with pictures. Really.
Fifth: Sabrina has this perfection complex so she won't draw anything because she "doesn't know how." I'm working on it, but it's slow. Anyway, I don't know how to draw an ant or an airplane either, so who am I to ask her to do it?
Sixth: We didn't even think about the math part of the homework because hello, zero is a really hard concept and, um, how do you draw zero other than in contrast to something else?
The rest of the week is the same: B, 2, and 3 on Tuesday; C, 4, and 5 on Wednesday; D, 6, and 7 on Thursday; and E, 8, and 9 on Friday. Because yes. It is kindergarten and they have homework on the first day of school and homework on Fridays.
I took her back to the pharmacy part of the pharmacy where she found it and told her that she needed to hand it to the pharmacist and tell her that she was sorry that she took it, that it was wrong, and that she wouldn't do it again. I seem to recall reading that this is how parents deal with their teenagers shoplifting.
But she's only five.
I took the obligatory first day of school photo, but it is on my phone and for Sabrina's parents only anyway.
We were late to school because the social worker scheduled Sabrina's annual physical for this morning. Only she didn't. It is on the 23rd of SEPTEMBER.
The system-wide school supply list bears little resemblance to the school-specific school supply list, at least for kindergarten. I now need to buy these additional items (most of which make sense, but weren't on the system-wide list): 2 folders, 3 composition books, 1 additional box of kleenex, and 2 bottles of hand sanitizer (which I don't think they should be using; sorry but I think a little bacteria every now and then is good for kids' immune systems). I don't need to buy, because I bought them already even though they weren't on the list, pencils, scissors, and paper.
I took today off so am sitting in a coffee shop. I was looking forward to this vanilla latte since Friday when I developed the plan to stay near school for the day. It's not that fabulous.
Sabrina's grandma called me yesterday and said that SHE wants Sabrina to go to the school near me. I agree but I do what I'm told. And I was told to enroll her in her old school. Where her new teacher, like her old teacher, doesn't know how to pronounce her name. There's no L in Sabrina's real name.
I don't know what the temperature is outside, but the sky is a nice clear blue. A good view from the window of the coffee shop.
While we were at our (basically) unnecessary visit to the doctor this morning, Sabrina was fantastically well-behaved. (She has been ever since she got back on Saturday afternoon. Yes, I realize I'm tempting fate.) I praised her multiple times; the last time she told me it was because G-d told her to be good. She told me that G-d is in her heart. She then asked me if I know G-d, then asked if G-d is a girl or a boy. That last was a difficult question to answer! I think she got some heavy-duty indoctrination* from her Grandma over the two months of the summer!
Sabrina keeps talking about getting a new baby sister. She was talking about a baby sister or baby brother at the end of last school year. Now it's more specific, only a sister, telling me what babies need (bottles, pacifiers, diapers, and car seats), wanting to knit something for her baby sister, and saying that her mom told her she would have a baby sister in 2 or 7 weeks. I think an email to the social worker is in order, volunteering to buy a crib and get licensed for two kids, if the plan is removal. (Since my boss, in my office of only five people, just had a baby on Saturday, it might be a problem to have two of us on parental leave at the same time, so hopefully 7 weeks is closer to accurate than 2! If there is, in fact, any baby at all, and if said baby does end up in my home.)
We did make use of being at the doctor's office this morning to get a new prescription for Sabrina's inhaler. The doctor gave me a prescription for quantity=2 so one can go to dad's house and one can stay with me, hooray!
It's amazing how un-crowded the walk-in clinic is on the first day of school!
I found my camera cord (under the dining room table; no, I did not clean at all until my frenzied mental health day on Friday) and there are some great pics of Sabrina that don't show her face!
She loves her construction set. She loves the trains even more, but all of those pictures have her face. She also loves the legos; but I'm still working with her on free-form play with the trains and legos. She is pretty insistent that they be "right" and she doesn't "know how to do it."
She also loves bubbles, but isn't so good at blowing them herself. Instead, I blow bubbles until I have a headache from the forced exhaling, and she runs after the bubbles to pop them. Or, like yesterday, catch them on her tongue. Yuck. It's nontoxic but I know it tastes bad; I got some on my lips when it dripped from the wand.
I hope that one eye only is confidential/private enough. I think this was her trying to catch bubbles on her tongue, though it wasn't yesterday so I don't remember. It might just have been her being uncooperative when I wanted to take a picture!
This is her in the dress I knit for her, that she doesn't like. I don't have any good pictures of her in it because she thought she looked "ugly" and wouldn't let me take any pictures. I thought she was going to grab the camera out of my hand after I took this one. I understand the feeling.
Sabrina loves smelling flowers. Every time we take a walk she stops to "smell the roses." Here they are actual roses; but she'll smell anything that's a color other than green.
*I don't mean indoctrination in its negative sense, but can't think of a less laden term at the moment.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
There are many things that I don't do on Shabbat. One of those things is use the phone.
I happened to be right next to where my phone was charging, however, late this morning (we'll not talk about why I wasn't in shul), when the phone rang and I could see that it was Sabrina's dad. After all the chaos of the last few days, I wondered if he was calling to say "I don't care what anyone says, she's not coming back to you." But there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I just let it slide.
Fast forward to 9:30 this evening when I have finally gotten Sabrina in bed. I check my phone and see that I have NINE missed calls and four voice mails. Some of the missed calls were from numbers I didn't recognize. All four voice mails were from Sabrina's dad, as was the text message I also received.
Message 1: When is the first day of school? I want to be there.
Message 2, 10 minutes later: You really need to answer your phone. This isn't right.
Message 3, 8:43 pm while we were reading a story: Yeah, uh, I was just called to talk to [Sabrina]. You need to answer your phone.
Message 4, 8:46 pm, from Grandma: I just wanted to make sure that [Sabrina] made it there safely. G-d bless you.
Text message: When is the first day of school?
I texted him back saying that 1. school starts on Monday but the agency made her physical appointment for Monday morning, so we are going to be late to school and I don't know what time we will get there, and 2. I'm sorry I wasn't able to answer the phone today but we should be available tomorrow except when we are in the car. Hopefully that will appease him.
(Brief update on fun with Sabrina: 1. she definitely still wears a size 4. Her new PJs, size 5/6, literally fall off her. 2. I love how polite she is! 3. We had birthday cake--her birthday was Monday--and she now wants me to give away the rest of the cake so that we can make cupcakes :-) 4. I got no mosquito bites all summer until we went to the playground today.)
I now need to get myself to bed as I don't have any idea what time we'll be waking up in the morning!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
School starts Monday (I hope that enough school systems start Monday that I'm not giving anything away about my location) and Sabrina has been with her dad all summer. Her birthday was earlier this week as well, so I called to wish her a happy birthday, see how she's doing, see if anyone had done ANYthing to prepare her to come back to me, make arrangements with her dad to pick her up, etc.
Sabrina has better phone skills than me and I am convinced is more polite than I am as well. What a sweetheart. Unfortunately: 1. someone (I assume dad) got her a Barbie car for her birthday so I have to do a lot to buy her love, and 2. no one had told her anything about needing to come back to my house. Nice, being the bearer of bad news.
Then I come to learn the reason why no one has told her that she would be coming back to my house: dad has done all sorts of things as if Sabrina is just with him for now and forever--enrolled her in school near his house (remember, he's in another state entirely), bought her school uniforms (I'm sorry, but any school whose uniform is a yellow top and green bottom needs to reconsider), registered her for piano lessons and another after school program--and when I tried to talk to him, he got snotty and then hung up on me.
As if that weren't bad enough, either he refuses to talk to Sabrina's social worker, or Sabrina's social worker isn't trying hard enough to reach him. So while dad kept saying (before he hung on me) "well, you need to talk to Wilma"--to which my responses were generally along the lines of "Wilma would say exactly what I am saying"--he hasn't spoken to her himself. As soon as I got off the phone with dad, I emailed Wilma, Wilma's supervisor, and the GAL (followed up with a second email after I received text messages from dad with the details of school/uniforms/after school activities and a statement that "maybe you should tell Wilma that Sabrina isn't the foster child for you") with the situation.
Guess who I did not hear from at all today? Guess who the GAL didn't hear from at all today? That's right, Wilma. The GAL spoke with the supervisor and then I spoke with the GAL. The GAL told me first that Sabrina is going to have to come back to me on Friday, which is fine although my apartment is STILL a wreck (I did finally get rid of the plants that were sitting, dead, on the dining room table when Sabrina was last here) and better for transition for Sabrina, but I don't know if the agency will ultimately agree. The GAL also told me--and this I was extremely relieved by--that the agency will have to pick Sabrina up from her dad's house and bring her to me. I expected to go myself, but after the call yesterday, I wanted to have "back up" with me to support my right to bring her to my house. And the GAL said I shouldn't have to go at all, yippee! I just need to make a list of the things that are at dad's house that Sabrina needs to bring back to my house. Like her inhalers. And the umbrella that I bought for her, and one of the two pairs of sunglasses, and the blanket I knit for her. I have no problem if things that I buy for her end up at dad's house, but I won't buy an umbrella a week or a pair of sunglasses a week just because Sabrina takes them to her dad's and then doesn't bring them back.
I still need to register Sabrina for school, and the GAL said I should hold off on enrolling her in my neighborhood school (if Sabrina goes to live with her aunt in a month or two, it does make sense--sort of mostly--for her not to have an extra school change) until we have a conversation with the social worker and her supervisor, but who knows if that's going to happen.
Even before this mess, I was talking to a friend who said I should tell the agency director about my troubles. But this friend has political clout in his job, and I'm just the local equivalent of a civil servant and have no professional relationship with the director, only with his chief of staff. So... who knows. I haven't made that decision yet.
I didn't miss Sabrina as much as I "should" have this summer, but I'll tell you what was really nice about her not being here: I didn't have to deal with the agency OR with her dad. It was nice while it lasted.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
1. Section 1 of the application is for foster kids. It asks "the amount of this child's personal monthly use income." First of all, the grammar doesn't make sense to me, but more importantly, what does this mean? Is this "how much does the agency give you each month for the child?" Or is it "I'm 5 and am just a kid, I have no income"?
2. Section 4 of the application is parent/guardian info. I'm not the guardian, the agency is. And it asks for social security number. I naively don't have too many fears about giving out my social security number (at least in contexts where it makes sense) but am I supposed to fill this section out as a foster parent? And the piece about my income? What do you do?
Friday, July 16, 2010
Then I went to court.
Dad's ICPC petition was denied. So dad isn't getting custody.
But Sabrina can stay with him for the rest of the summer.
So I'm off the hook for planning a birthday party at all.
Sabrina will get some therapy to prepare her for coming back to me when school starts, so it isn't a horrible shock for her (though it will still be horrible for her!), and dad is considering moving into our jurisdiction so he can get custody, and the agency will look at dad's sister as a possible placement.
And mom is just crazy.*
*The GAL's assessment, not mine!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I don't believe in planning a party that requires us to drive 40 minutes or more to get to when we live in a city with all sorts of fun things to do.
Am I being selfish? Should I "give in" and scope out Chuck E. Cheese (where I haven't been since a birthday party when I was 6)? What are non-Chuck E. Cheese similar ideas?
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Court is Friday (did I say it was on Thursday yesterday? I put it on my calendar wrong, oops) and who really knows what the judge will do. Wilma doesn't know what the basis is for the report she gave me that it "doesn't look good" for placement with dad. That is what she was told by the ICPC folks in the agency, but she hasn't seen a written report with justification.
Since I won't be seeing Sabrina this Sunday, I have another week to clean up the disaster area that my apartment has become in the last three weeks--really, it is worse than it was before even though I was supposed to be using this time to make it better--make some dentist appointments, make a back-to-school physical appointment, buy play clothes, figure out what to send with her for lunches to camp (if I need to; since it is through the city, the summer nutrition--that is, summer carryover of the free lunch program--program might provide lunches at camp), and do about a gazillion other things.
After court, I'll register her for school.
No clue if anyone else in Sabrina's family will be available as an alternative placement. All I know is that Wilma reports that mom has been asked for other options, and she hasn't given any (at least, not any who she has already asked if they would be willing).
So we'll see what happens, and we'll see what becomes of the weekend visits with dad.
And in the meantime, I am going to spend this evening reading in front of the air conditioner.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Court is next Thursday.
Wilma (social worker) emailed me today to say that she doesn't have the written report, but that the oral report is not good for dad getting custody. I emailed her back asking what that means about visits. There's also a ton of other family. If this means that we'll be indefinitely and semi-permanently in a state of 4-nights-with-me-3-nights-with-dad I am going to have to have some serious words with someone. Because that just isn't working out for me. (As in, it's not good for Sabrina, even though it is good for her to see her family.)
Wilma's email also implied that I should be figuring out what to do with Sabrina during the day for the rest of the summer. Because of course all sorts of good camps have openings still halfway through the summer. (And most of what I've found is only for half days. This makes sense, as she is only 4. But I'm not good at simultaneous planning--lining up a babysitter AND camps at the same time.)
So that's where we are. Limbo, as all good foster care placements should be. (Hi, Sarcasm? It's just me calling. How are ya?)
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I have a co-worker who does the following things that annoy me:
1. When she answers the phone and it is for me (I am also annoyed by the people who have my desk number but call the main office number anyway), she yells all the way across the office to see if I'm at my desk. It's bad enough when my boss, whose office is right next to mine, calls to me at my desk. But there are acres between my office and this co-worker's. And the air conditioning in my office is LOUD. I can barely hear my boss when she calls to me.
2. When she calls to me from her office for other reasons. I get it, really I do, that if our administrative savior isn't at his desk and this coworker is on the phone and someone comes into the office that I'm the next person in line to help the person who has come in. And I'm happy to. But, I don't know, shoot me a quick email. I'll get it. And I'll go help the person. If you yell all the way across the office, I won't hear you.
3. When I vent about something (this morning it was that my email crashed when I tried searching in it), she tries to solve my problem. No really, I don't need to call tech support because my email crashed repeatedly. Actually, I just need to restart my computer.
4. And did I mention when she yells across the office to me? I did? Oh.
(Side note: Sabrina is allowed to be with her dad for up to 30 days--at 30 days it becomes a "placement"--so she's been with him for a week and a half. I miss her but it has been nice to sleep until 7:45 in the mornings!)
Monday, June 21, 2010
But today is a good example of why this arrangement is not working for me.
On Monday mornings I drive all the way across the city, park near Sabrina's school, and go to work, so that my car will be in the right place to pick her up. This is what I did this morning. (Yes, school is still in session.)
Tomorrow is the last day of school, so I called dad to confirm that he is picking Sabrina up after school tomorrow. (I was working on arranging a job interview for Wednesday and needed to make sure I didn't need to find a baby-sitter.) Imagine my surprise when Sabrina answered the phone.
She was sick this morning so they kept her home. Fine. But, I don't know, maybe CALL ME so that I know not to pick her up at school?
That's inconvenience number 1. (Not really adding in that now my car is on the other side of the city, I have to pay for parking that is ultimately unnecessary, and on top of it I have to drive home during rush hour. Oh well, water under the bridge.)
But I also had this big plan to make sure to tell Sabrina to say good-bye to her friends to prep her for not going to the same school next year. If she lives with her dad, she'll be going to school by him, and if she still lives with me, she is going to my neighborhood school. And I think she should have some warning about this. But I don't know that she's going to get that since now her aunt is taking her to school AND picking her up tomorrow. (Still just assuming; I left a message on dad's cell phone after getting the number from Sabrina's grandpa.)
And I don't know when I will next see her.
On the plus side, I didn't do her laundry over the weekend, nor did I buy milk or apple juice, so her not coming back to me means that I don't have to face the negative natural consequences of those failures to act.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
So when we're asked at 4:40 on Wednesday to add another thing that we haven't seen, that I don't have all of the electronic papers I need to wrangle, etc., and my boss and I both have to leave to pick up kids and...I have a gynecologist appointment first thing tomorrow morning and my boss is leaving for vacation. So, um, do I have to cancel my appointment because someone else sat on a document and then "forgot" about the publication deadline?
Well, that all worked out, thankfully, though not without some unpleasant adrenaline.
I picked up Sabrina and all was well except that she wanted to do the following:
* make a card for her mommy
* go to a warehouse store to buy snacks for her class
* make gift bags for the snacks
* pack the gift bags
Yeah, so we got home from the warehouse store and it was already 8 pm. We hadn't had dinner. It's summer so Sabrina needed a bath. So, well, nothing else got done.
Then there was a fly in Sabrina's room. Because the ants in the kitchen aren't sufficient to drive me batty. It turns out that Sabrina is TERRIFIED of flies. A few hugs and trying to reassure her that flies only annoy us but don't hurt us later, I successfully swatted it. I didn't think it was possible. But I killed the fly. There's another one that is in her bathroom and I closed the door and told her I'd kill it, but I think I'm just going to let it be.
So now I'm thinking that I just need to manage to wake myself up early enough that I can wake her up a little early so we can at least make the card for her mom, and we'll do the gift bags tomorrow night when she gets home from her visit with her mom.
And then I checked my mail. In between my DVDs, there it was. A business card. "Investigative Social Worker." Because I need that stress.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
No, I just mean I'm long overdue for a post!
This morning was the awards ceremony for the preschool through 1st grades at Sabrina's school. I thought it was tomorrow so I almost missed it! My observations:
- oh my G-d there was a lot of cuteness in that room.
- an hour is really too long for kids that age to sit and clap for other kids. Eight classes. After the second, the kids got really restless.
- At least starting in kindergarten, not every kid got an award.
- But kindergarten is really too young for not every kid to get an award.
- What in the world does "honor roll" mean when applied to preschool? (Or pre-K? Or, well, any of those grades?)
- Nevertheless, I am very proud that Sabrina got an honor roll award. Since we've stopped doing homework, I was nervous that she wasn't going to get honor roll and it would be my fault.
- Sabrina's aunt came. Yay!
- I didn't learn "shake with the right, take with the left" until I was in 12th grade. Those pre-schoolers were SO FREAKING ADORABLE trying to get it down.
- The assistant principal of Sabrina's school is H-O-T HOT. Just sayin'.
- None of the parents who got the "outstanding volunteer" award were there. Irony much?
So here we are a week away from the end of the school year, and Sabrina's teacher still says her name wrong. It's as if she called her "Stabrina." That is, she adds an extra consonant (not actually a T) between the first and second letters of her name. Grr.
Yesterday I picked up Sabrina at school and the first thing she told me about was the cantaloupe she had with her grandma over the weekend. I wish I'd had a video camera to record her describing the cantaloupe. So of course we made a detour on the way home to buy a cantaloupe. (Um, we had to stop at the store to buy milk anyway. My fault. I went to Costco on Sunday for our fruits and veggies and such, and I certainly was not going to buy milk there.)
We walked into the store and the first thing Sabrina saw were blueberries. How can you say no to a four year old who insists that we NEED blueberries? I tried, actually. I bought strawberries at Costco and we were about to buy a melon, and there ARE only two of us. But really, it's fruit. Then it turned out that they didn't have cantaloupes! So sad, but we got a mini watermelon instead.
As we were getting in line, we passed the "impulse-purchase-some-pie!" display. Sabrina asked--not if we could buy a pie--but "can we make a pie?" SO CUTE!
Sabrina's dad got a job, hooray! Last Monday he had to report at 6 am (ugh) so he asked if he could bring Sabrina back on Sunday night instead of needing to find someone to take her to school. So I gave him my address and he came by with her, and then... yesterday I got a call from him. He is installing satellite dishes literally across the street from my building. We never would have known if he hadn't had to bring Sabrina back to me last week. Crazy.
According to Sabrina's GAL, my post about ICPC was wrong and my city wouldn't remain on the hook financially for Sabrina if dad got custody. The GAL has another kid on her caseload in exactly the same situation. Same county. A birth dad. Money questions. TWO YEARS LATER,. that kid is still not with her dad... Hopefully the fact that Sabrina's dad now has a job will change the situation.
Nevertheless, there is something seriously wrong with kids remaining in care because a parent--not just a family member, but a PARENT--doesn't have a job.
Okay, back to work. More cute stories later, I hope!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So once I finally read through the remaining items from the New Yorker that were lurking in my Google Reader and then had nothing to do to procrastinate, I decided to do some research on the ICPC. ICPC stands for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, and its purpose is to protect the safety of kids who are sent/brought from one state to another for foster care or adoption. There are elements of it that are supposed to ease some of the bureaucracy (like maximum time for the receiving state to do a home study and such) and guarantee that the sending state remains financially responsible for the kiddo.
Sabrina's dad lives in another state (though nearby, relatively speaking, as you must have figured out since she spends every weekend with him) so ICPC applies to him getting custody.
"But wait," I hear you saying. "He's dad. It's not foster care. It's not adoption. Why does ICPC apply?"
I have been curious about this too for the last six months, and especially since last week when Wilma, the no-longer-so-terrible social worker told me that things aren't going well on the ICPC front. Apparently dad's county is concerned about dad's financial situation and doesn't want to have to pay for Sabrina. More on that detail later, but this is why today I decided I needed to do some research into the law.
Article III of the ICPC itself states (my emphasis):
(a) No sending agency shall send, bring, or cause to be sent or brought into any
other party state any child for placement in foster care or as a preliminary to
a possible adoption unless the sending agency shall comply with each and every
requirement set forth in this article and with the applicable laws of the
receiving state governing the placement of children therein.
So yeah, it doesn't look like it should apply. And if it doesn't apply, then Sabrina should be with her dad and her dad's county can complain all they want about being on the hook financially if things go south with dad's financial situation because they don't have the ICPC protection of my state retaining jurisdiction.
But there are regulations. And they say, in Regulation 3 (again, my emphasis):
1. "Placement" as defined in Article II (d) includes the arrangement for the
care of a child in the home of his parent, other relative, or non-agency
guardian in a receiving state when the sending agency is any entity other than a
parent, relative, guardian or non-agency guardian making the arrangement for
care as a plan exempt under Article VIII (a) of the Compact.
So there you have it, the ICPC applies.
But it doesn't have to (Regulation 3, 6(b)):
(b) The Compact does not apply whenever a court transfers the child to aThe judge in the case opted out of such a transfer though, so the ICPC applies.
non-custodial parent with respect to whom the court does not have evidence
before it that such parent is unfit, does not seek such evidence, and does not
retain jurisdiction over the child after the court transfers the child.
And here's the key thing (Article V of the Compact itself, emphasis mine):
(a) The sending agency shall retain jurisdiction over the child sufficient toSo dad's county? Doesn't get to use dad's finances as a cover for not approving him as a placement.
determine all matters in relation to the custody, supervision, care, and
disposition of the child which it would have had if the child had remained in
the sending agency’s state, until the child is adopted, reaches majority,
becomes self-supporting or is discharged with the concurrence of the appropriate
authority in the receiving state. Such jurisdiction shall also include the power
to effect or cause the return of the child or its transfer to another location
and custody pursuant to law. The sending agency shall continue to have financial responsibility for support and maintenance of the child during the period of the placement. Nothing contained herein shall defeat a claim of jurisdiction by a receiving state sufficient to deal with an act of delinquency or crime committed therein.
And thus ends today's treatise on why Sabrina should be with her dad, and not with me.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sabrina and I were out last Tuesday when she said, out of the blue (because everything a four year old says is out of the blue!), "we are different colors." Great opportunity to have a really good conversation, right?
Well, not if you blow it completely.
It started out okay. "Why are we different colors?" "Well, a long long long time ago, our grandparents' grandparents' grandparents' lived in different parts of the world. And people in some parts of the world have darker skin to protect them from the sun." Yes, I did try to explain evolutionary biology to a four year old.
Then things went terribly, horribly wrong.
"I wish I had lighter skin, Foster Ima."
After I talked myself out of telling her about the study I read about showing that kids of all skin tones are biased towards lighter skin (yeah, a little beyond a four year old's comprehension, and not what she was looking for), I said ... wait for it ... oh you will be shocked at my incredible stupidity ...
"but your skin is part of who you are!"
[Immediate realization of what I said] "I mean, um, what you are INSIDE is makes you who you are. And you are smart and funny and have good manners."
Oops. And now I will go hide under a rock so I never say anything so stupid again.