Foster Care: Who I Blame For My Mental Breakdown

Foster Care: Who I Blame For My Mental Breakdown

We entered foster care with pure hearts and intentions. We prayed, we read parenting books, we took classes, we enlisted friends and family for support, and we researched for years before filling out our paperwork and obtaining our license. I still believe we couldn’t have done any more to prepare ourselves.

We told the truth in our interviews and put all of our issues on the table; we weren’t a perfect family, but we were happy and stable. I’d struggled with anxiety for many years as a child and into adulthood, but with the help of medication and therapy, I hadn’t had a panic attack in over 10 years. Although I was nervous about my ability to parent traumatized and special needs children, I felt both physically and mentally healthy.

My husband, Mark, had experience parenting five kids, our two boys together—ages five and six—and three older children from a previous marriage. Mark is a patient and joyful man with a demeanor that naturally disarms. With our marriage strong and ready, we opened our home to children in need.

Respite Care

We thought it best to begin with respite, a needed service in the system that assists full-time foster parents when they need care for their child(ren) for a short time. Our first child was David*, a 3-year-old boy, who we would care for for a few days and nights.

David had a beaming smile and loved to snuggle before bed, but we found out quickly that he was a danger to himself and others. I was not prepared or trained to handle him in a way that kept everyone safe. None of his challenges had been relayed prior to us agreeing to care for him. So began our distrust of caseworkers and a string of lies and half-truths from people we were supposed to trust.

Despite our first experience, we maintained a positive outlook. We hoped it was a singular event and that our assigned caseworker, Jeannie*, and others we would work with would be honest individuals who understood how important it was to us that our home be a safe place for our all children, foster, step, and biological.

After David, we turned down several respite care requests until Jeannie contacted us about Ashley*, a 17-year-old girl who was about to graduate from high school. Jeannie thought that Ashley would do well in our family given that I was a mental health advocate. Although I’d experienced a short bout of depression myself in the past and I’d lost my mother to suicide, I had been through years of therapy and could talk freely and openly about both. Jeannie thought that our openness and understanding of mental illness as a disease, not a character flaw, could help Ashley with her challenges.

Ashley

Ashley entered our family for the weekend to give her foster parents a break. They had several other children who had special needs and Ashley needed full-time supervision because she was currently under doctor-ordered suicide watch.

We locked up our medications, knives, and other potentially harmful items and welcomed her. Despite forthright warnings about Ashley’s challenges from Jeannie and Ashley’s current foster mom, the two days couldn’t have gone better. Ashley slept more than a typical teen and wasn’t very active, but overall, she was a joy to have around. We invited her back to our house for the following weekend.

Weeks passed with Ashley spending time with us from Friday evenings to Sunday afternoons. During the week, she went to school and finished out her last days as a senior. Around that time Ashley showed marked improvement in her mental state and her doctor released her from suicide watch. We could then allow her to take short walks by herself and spend time alone in her room. Everyone was proud of her for the progress she was making… read more.

This article was published by adoption.com.

 

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A White Suburban Mom’s Response to “All Lives Matter.”

A White Suburban Mom’s Response to “All Lives Matter.”

I can’t believe I’m still seeing it, on my my Facebook newsfeed, on Twitter, and in online comments from my own family and friends – #AllLivesMatter – and it pisses me off every time. For the most part, I find that white people I know who are posting this phrase are oblivious of its divisiveness.

I believe in my heart that they’re attempting to be inclusive, instead of exclusive, or that they are wholly unaware that #BlackLivesMatter is a peaceful civil rights movement. Still, their ignorance of the destructiveness of #AllLivesMatter is part of the problem. 

Friends, family, people I love, please listen! #AllLivesMatter originated as a response to #BlackLivesMatter. “All Lives Matter” is not an inclusive phrase to unify the human race, but rather highlights the exact problem that the Black Lives Matter movement means to abolish. “All Lives Matter” – the phrase and the hashtag – inherently divides. It pits black people against white people. It hurts the black community. 

It is proof that we, the white community, still do not get it… read more.

This article was published by parent.co.

How to Navigate Toddler Fears of Blow-up Penguins & Stray Hairs

How to Navigate Toddler Fears of Blow-up Penguins & Stray Hairs

Being a hero in the eyes of my little ones is a perk of motherhood I expected. I assumed I’d be saving my kids from bees, the deep end of the swimming pool, and the mean kids at the park, but I never thought I’d be rescuing my sons from strands of hair and an inflatable penguin. I’m sure my boys will grow out of this phase, but right now, what horrifies them is hilarious to me.

My two-year-old is a little particular (that’s particular, not peculiar). He likes to clean, likes things in order, and he doesn’t like his hands dirty or sticky. (We gave him a glazed doughnut, and he asked for gloves. After a debate, we settled on a fork). I can only guess that his aversion to “yucky” things led to his fear of hair. He’s not afraid of the hair on our heads, just the loose pieces that you might find in the tub or on the floor. 

I don’t blame him for being a little disgusted by a random hair, but this is a real toddler-phobia. When he sees a hair, he backs away or scrunches up in the corner of the bathtub, points at it, and shouts, “Hair! Hair! Hair!” until I remove it. My son reacts to a strand of hair the way most of us would react to a bat in the house… read more.

This article was published by parent.co.

Debate Club: Should You Teach Your Kids to Share?

Debate Club: Should You Teach Your Kids to Share?
Teaching kids to share is good for them and good for society

On a gorgeous fall day, I drove down the streets of our upper middle class, suburban neighborhood, waving at strangers raking leaves and kids playing in the unseasonably warm weather. As I passed garage after garage, open and neatly organized, I noticed something that disgusted me about the culture in which we live. 

I saw the exact same items in nearly every garage: expensive lawn mowers, high-end snow blowers, ladders of every size, hardware of all kinds, and every lawn gadget thing-a-ma-bob imaginable. The two to three vehicles parked in every driveway didn’t escape my attention either. 

The homes in our neighborhood are around 50 feet from one another. In this moment of clarity, it seemed like such a waste that every garage contained multiple, seldom used items hanging literally feet away from the neighbor’s identical items.

I thought about why we live this way. I believe that our need for autonomy, financial or otherwise, is rooted in the fact that, as a society, we’ve lost our sense of community and connection to one another. We don’t have relationships with our neighbors. We don’t share because we’re looking out for ourselves. 

My experience cemented my conviction and commitment to sharing the things we own and teaching my children to do the sameread more.

This article was published by parent.co.

Review of Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren

Review of Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
This memoir is a must-read for foster, adoptive, pre-adoptive, and special needs parents.

My takeaway from Everything You Ever Wanted isn’t that with love, persistence, and a lot of help a special needs child can make giant leaps forward in his development (although there’s that too), but rather that the commitment to loving a child, no matter the outcome, is a journey that is worth every sacrifice, every tear, and every hurt a parent endures.

Jillian’s story is one that many of us in the adoption world can relate to. It is the story of a woman longing to be a mother with such intensity that every cell in her body cries out for what’s missing – a child, wherever he may be. It is a story of love, of commitment, of infertility, of a marriage tested by trials. And, more than anything, it is the story of what happens when things don’t turn out the way you planned… read more.

This article was published by adoption.com.

How to Have Meltdown Free Family Meals at Foster Parents

How to Have Meltdown Free Family Meals at Foster Parents

When children in foster care join the family mealtime can become a challenge. Children from difficult places are often accustomed to processed, bland, and low-nutrition foods, not healthy or varied meals. Mealtime behavior aside, just encouraging these children to try new foods can be a trial in itself.

However, family meals don’t have to be a battle ground. As with many things in foster care, the groundwork for meltdown free (and even enjoyable) dining must begin with the parents. Through experience, research, and consulting veteran foster parents, I’ve compiled a few tips to help all families (foster, adoptive, or otherwise) make dinners together peaceful and productive.

Ask for input.

This one is tricky. Obviously if you have five children and ask them what they want for dinner, you’re going to get five different answers. But, offering a choice of two different vegetables or taking a vote on entrees when planning meals can be helpful and make some children look forward to eating together.

Let them help.

Asking or allowing my kids to help make a meal has proven to be the best way to get them to try something new. Sure, meatloaf doesn’t look very appealing, but when I enlisted my kids in cracking the eggs and forming the loaf with their bare hands, it got them excited to try it! And, wouldn’t you know it, now meatloaf (covered in ketchup) is now one of their favorite foods… read more.

This article was published by adoption.com.

The Good, The Bad, And The Funny: 8 Adoptive Parents You Need to Follow Right Now

The Good, The Bad, And The Funny: 8 Adoptive Parents You Need to Follow Right Now
Follow these often funny, tell-it-like-it-is parents online for encouragement, a laugh, and a glimpse into their lives post-adoption.

These adoptive parents don’t have child-rearing super powers and they weren’t given a manual with their first child. They simply share their daily struggles, along with their joys and successes, but mostly they’re living their lives—trying to get everyone out the door in the morning with shoes on and teeth brushed—just like the rest of us!

Mike & Kristin Berry

Confessions of an Adoptive Parent is more than a blog, it’s a resource. Mike and Kristin Berry have been parenting for over 14 years as foster and adoptive parents. They travel the country encouraging families and speaking on a variety of topics, including parenting, foster care, and marriage.

With Mike writing most of the posts, he provides a perspective that isn’t common in the blogging or adoption world—that of a faithful and involved father. He seems to share whatever is on his heart, broaching often avoided subjects like sex, marriage issues, loneliness, residential care, and feelings of failure… read more.

This article was published by adoption.com.