What to say.

Well frankly, 2013 felt like a nice slap in the face. Like the lingering tingly red hand print kind. And I’m glad to see it go. To be honest, I was ready to have it gone by February. We had to make decisions that I never thought we would have to make and we faced trials that I never thought we’d face. And it nearly drained the life out of me.

But in between all the bad, we had some really great things that helped us along the way.

With all Mike’s schooling done, we finally got to settle down and became first time homeowners in May! We love our house. We love our neighborhood. And we love having a place to officially call our own.
We went to Disneyland. And that’s the happiest place on earth, so how could I not add that into the list of awesome things for the year?
We got to welcome another niece into the family! And aren’t babies the best?
We made the decision to become foster parents! And talk about a whirlwind. Never having thought of doing foster care, it’s like God himself took control of our computer on that random Sunday back in September to guide us to this decision. {You can read about it here.} Still counting down the days of our first placement.
Now this is when I go on to say, “We got this, 2014!” or “2014 will be our year!”. But I guess the pessimistic side just got the best of me this year. So I guess I end with, “Just be better than 2013, okay?”

But really, let’s knock 2014 out of the park, yeah?


Clearance Racks Are Our Forte

And Mike was perusing through such racks on his lunch break today when he came across an incredibly beautiful, wooden hand-carved piece of art. And it was cracked right down the center. He immediately texted me a picture of it. He tells me that it's regular priced $130.00 and on clearance for $11.00 because of the crack. He loved it. I felt more of a need to see it in person. The thing was huge and I had no idea what we were going to do with it if we bought it. So once I got off work for the day, I headed straight to said clearance rack to do my own perusing. Of which I found a massive hand-painted clay pot that was 80% off. And I had just the place for it. Mike met me at the store to which we proceeded to buy both massive hand-painted clay pot and huge wooden hand-carved piece of art. Side note: Instead of bringing the car, Mike walked to meet me. Which means we had to walk back carrying a good 30+lbs each of art. Felt the burn.

So when we finally make it home, we flip over the stand that this large wooden ball is sitting on and there is a label explaining the origin of the art.
The last line says "Originally this decorative ball was made as a gift from the groom's family to the bride's family at the proposal ceremony."

Did I mention that exactly 7 years ago today, Mike proposed?

Isn't that awesome?

We had no idea that that label was even there, and it was taped upside down so we couldn't read it even if we had seen it. Amazing. And now some random, cracked, very large, very heavy, beautiful hand-carved ball of wood actually holds quite the place in my heart. Happy Engage-iversary Michael!



Day 5: Attachment/Separation/Grief/Loss

At our last foster care class, our instructor began by setting a timer. She didn't tell us how much time she set it for but when the timer went off, we were instructed to switch seats, and leave one thing behind. Then she set the timer again for an undisclosed amount of time. When the timer went off this time, we were instructed to switch seats and leave everything but one item behind. Once again, she set the timer. When the time expired we were instructed to leave everything, and switch seats. When we arrived at our new seat, she called out people by name and had them switch seats with each other. Mike was sent to the front of the room while I was left in the back. The guy that switched seats with Mike sat down and asked me if I could cook. Is that all that matters to you, dude? And yes, I did say that to his face. Okay, minus the dude part.

Was I uncomfortable? Extremely. And that was exactly the point. She separated me from my spouse, my things, my preferred spot on the third row, and left me vulnerable in the back of the room next to a man that only cares about food. And then she left us there while we watched this video...{speaking of food, grab a snack, it's a long one}
It just kills me. And yet, I love it so much. 

Attachment. Most children are attached to their biological parents. Therefore, we can assume that one of the most traumatic experiences a child can experience would be the loss of a parent. Many children seem to believe that they are somehow to blame for being separated from their parent only causing the expressions of grief to escalate. 

The two points of attachment are physical proximity and emotional. We most securely attach to people who "get it". As foster parents, we seek for that attachment while understanding that these children may have attachment difficulties resulting from prior attachment interruptions. Children know what they need to feel better. When they come to us in need, we must respond. 

Of the eight, I loved this class the most. 

And then it was over. I can't believe we've finished our 32 hours of training. I've been so enlightened and learned more than I could have ever expected to. Next step: home study!

{I promise that we do have a small semblance of a life outside of foster care. I just never seem to write about it. To summarize, Thanksgiving was great, I didn't shop at Target from Black Friday thru December 15 {wahoo!}, my Christmas tree is up and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, enter the best week of the year!}


Day 3: Abuse & Neglect/Sex Abuse

It is becoming more and more difficult for me to write these posts. I'm not sure if its the subject matter, or if I just don't know how to best put it into words. Our instructor is so eloquent. I'm pathetic in comparison. But I do my best in relaying the basic information to best inform my readers. 

One of the more difficult topics when preparing to become foster parents is abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of our four hours in class were spent talking about sexual abuse, however, information and training is key when you become the foster parent of a child that has been affected by this horrific event. Speaking of...has anyone read the Elizabeth Smart book? I hear it is a difficult read because of the subject matter but inspiring all the same and I wonder if her insight would better help me in my knowledge.

Here is an interesting fact for you. 18 percent of sex offenders were molested as children, which can be a small or large number depending on your perspective. But what is more interesting is people that come from violent homes are more likely to become pedophiles. All forms of sexual abuse involve some form of power and control. Even the smallest form of any type of abuse can completely alter the life and behavior and development in a child. 

So as the primary caregivers, what is our role in protecting children? 

Talk to them. The more open you are with them, the more open they will be with you. If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, then the child needs to know that they don't have to be around them. 

Let the kids decide who they want to show affection to. If they don't want to sit on Santa's lap, don't make them. If they don't want to give Grandma a hug, they shouldn't have to. We never want to make kids feel guilty for not wanting to show affection, because it teaches them that they must succumb to all forms of affection, even if it may be inappropriate. 

Teach kids the anatomically correct words of body parts. It will help in the event of identifying if a child has ever been sexually abused. Also, it will teach the kids that as a parent, you aren't embarrassed to talk about these kinds of things and that they can come to with anything. 

Occasionally ask the kids if they have anything that they need to talk about or if there is anything they are uncomfortable about. Remind the kids that if anyone has made a threat to keep the child quiet, we have more power and the law has more power. 

Tell your kids that you will believe them. And that you will stop it from happening. 

Remember that sexual abuse does not ruin the life of the child. It can be overcome. {Another reason I must read Elizabeth Smart's book.}

As foster parents, with the possibility of bringing children into our home that have been sexually abused and/or abused, we must be able to:

Discuss sex, sexuality and sexual abuse with relative comfort.

Be patient, as children need time to develop trust. 

Be flexible. Different children need different things at different times.

Must realize that bringing a child into our home will change it. 

Must be willing and able to provide high levels of supervision.

Must be open to seeking and using help from external sources. 

We may be asked to work with the child's family and must be able to do so with respect and empathy. Increasing contact with biological parents decreases the emotional impact on the child. {There are very rare instances of children hating their biological parents.} The more often the children see their parents, the less traumatic it will be each time they say goodbye.

One more class!


Day 2: Medical/Licensing/Policy

Well if the title alone didn't turn you away, our most recent foster care class was all about the rules. What we can and can't do and say. And in an effort to keep this post a little interesting all while talking about a rather boring topic, I have decided to write mainly on the things in which the general population would perhaps find interesting.

Like for instance, did you know that as foster parents, we cannot cut the child's hair? We can maintain a hairstyle. But if a boy comes to you with hair to his shoulders, embrace you must. {However, I find long hair on a boy rather adorable.}

We are not permitted to talk about the reason's in which the child has come into care. So please, do not ask us. Because the answer will be something like "...because the child's parents are working through some issues...". Vague, I know. So please don't ask. 

Let's say that one of the children breaks a lamp. But you don't know which one did and no one is admitting fault. As a foster parent, we would not be permitted to punish all the children. Meaning, I couldn't send them all to their rooms as a direct punishment of the lamp being broken. That is called joint punishment and is not allowed.

No child over the age of two can sleep in the parents bedroom. Nor can the parent sleep in the bedroom with the child. I know that may seem like an obvious one, but how often do parents find their four year old asleep on the floor in their bedroom?

Only children of the same sex can share a bedroom. Each must have their own bed, and there must be at least 60 square feet of living space per child in the bedroom. Bedrooms must be a minimum of 80 square feet. 

All household cleaning supplies {including laundry supplies}, medicines, and any possibly hazardous household items must be under lock and key. No fancy cabinet latches. Luckily, they have these awesome magnet locks that are installed on the inside of cabinet doors that are considered lock and key. Some hazardous items that we didn't initially think about were the gas cans and the bottles of oil in the garage. Or the cans of paint in the basement. It's amazing how so many things can slip your mind as "hazardous" when they usually would not cause any worry. 

Within 30 days of the child being placed in your home, you are required to take them to a pediatrician for a well check. 

Any injury, no matter how small, requires an incident report to be filled out and must be reported to the case worker . A paper cut? Yep. A bruise? You know it. {And considering kids are prone to small injuries, it will probably turn into a nightly email.}

You actually can take the children on out of state vacations. Which really actually surprised me. Of course, you must get permission from the biological parents before you do so. We were informed that the biological parents are usually pretty reasonable when considering this. You are allowed to take the children overnight anywhere in the state without any permission. Everything from camping in the mountains to a weekend in St. George. 

We were just informed that because of our history of living out of state, our licensing may actually take up to two months longer. I know, super. But it's just a big reminder that they have put all of these policies in place because once upon a time, they didn't have them. And the foster care system was in shambles. And I will follow every single policy. And wait patiently for every piece of the licensing to come through because at least that means that the system, and every person involved, is doing their job to make sure that these kids are getting the best care possible in the worst possible situation.

{As a side note: Any examples above are purely for explanation of the policy/rule and are not necessarily something that we would/wouldn't do in our home.} 


Day 7: Adoption Issues

First thing. Watch this video.

Wow. Isn't Shane amazing? There are so many things in this video that scream at me. Like when he says he still lives with the pain of being rejected over and over. But how sometimes that rejection could be replaced with hope, when there were potential adoptive families. And how that hope was quickly erased by disappointment. Like how he wondered why families would send him back. Because he would lie from time to time, or stole every once in a while, or acted out. Or when he says he felt as if he wasn't quite good enough. Not good enough to get a home. Or a family.

"Who wouldn't want to call me son, now? Who wouldn't be proud of having me as a part of their family? And how many children out there would say the same?"

Only 1 to 2 percent of the children that go into the foster care system are considered to have extreme behavior. So when Shane says that he perhaps acted out, what child doesn't act out? What child doesn't lie? One time I stole a piece of gum from a store. Among many other things I stole from my sister's growing up. Makeup, perfume, candy, you name it.

It's amazing to me that even among all the rejection, and never actually getting a family of his own, he was still able to rise above the odds. Do you want to hear the odds? 70 percent of teenagers that age out of the system {meaning they never get adopted, and are released from foster care at the age of 18} end up either dead, on drugs, or homeless. 70 percent! Now you can begin to understand the importance of stability in the lives of these children.

We have turned in our paperwork, of which states that we are willing to be the foster parents for children ages 0 to 10. If the biological parents of these kids end up having their parental rights terminated, then we are first in line for adoption. And highly encouraged to do so. Adopting a 10 year old is so different than fostering a 10 year old. Or is it? It's the exact same thing if I'm doing my job as a foster parent. How weird to think I could be the parent of a 10 year old. I could never do to a child what those foster parents and potential adoptive parents did to Shane and his little brother. This is when we have to dig deep and find what it is that God really wants us to do. It doesn't matter the age of these kids, or the individual behaviors, if God wants the kids in our home, who can argue with that?