Monday, September 22, 2014

Siblings and separation....

Siblings and the fact that they are often separated in foster care has been so heavy on my mind lately.

I think most people know the girls have an older brother and even though Anna came into care first, when her siblings entered, they merged the cases together.  When the siblings came into care, they were all placed together for a short time, but due to circumstances and honestly a request, the girls were moved.  We were asked to take the 2 and we said yes.

We NEVER intended to foster siblings.  One at a time.  However, if there is one thing that is more heartbreaking than a child losing his/her parent(s), that is losing their sibling(s) as well.  I truly think that siblings should remain together from day one.  Not from termination hearing date, or at the permanency placement hearing but from day one.  What does that mean?  That would mean not only more foster parents, but a different demographic of foster parents as well.  For instance, a lot of the foster homes open right now have young children.  And while we are happy to step up to the plate, DHS has some guidelines (and rightfully so) on how many children under a certain age we can take.

We need more homes that have older children, empty nesters, or no children who are able to take sibling groups.  We need more homes that are eligible to take big sibling groups from the moment of removal.  Instead of them languishing in separate homes when the goal is for them to be adopted together, they need to be together from the start.  Am I grateful God is allowing doors to open to begin the adoption process with the girls?  Yes, because I love these girls so much but there is still a huge sense of loss that is following them.  Their brother doesn't need removed from his situation for reasons that really aren't relevant, and the place he is currently living is not a place for all 3.  However, the situation for so many other children is so different.  These girls see their brother.  We have a relationship with their aunt that we will continue.  But, there is still a burden over this.  Almost a guilt if that makes sense.

What's the solution?  What's the answer?  The answer is first and foremost more help for these mothers.  We need intervention before they continue to have 3, 4, 5, 6 children that they are not able to care for.  Then, we need waiting homes simply to take big sibling groups.  Not just adoptive homes waiting, but foster homes.  If there could be open foster homes to take big siblings groups, the transition and wait for an adoptive home would be so much easier because they would be waiting together.  And, once again, the goal at first is always reunification.  Staying together from day one would be so much easier on all involved with that goal.

Again, is every situation black and white?  No.  Ours is so gray it's almost crazy.  Should children be moved after 2 years with their foster parent if that family is willing and able to adopt?  No, I personally don't think so.  However, the front end is what makes me the most sad.  We have got to quit working backwards and help these kids from day one stay together and when it's possible, make the first placement the last.

 It's a problem that is definitely worth praying for.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Being a Grace Based Parent

When Trey was a baby, my in laws sent J. O. and I to a Weekend to Remember conference one year for Christmas.  We went to San Antonio and had such a great time.  One of our speakers was someone I had never heard of, but I loved what he talked about.  His name was Tim Kimmel and he wrote a book that I snatched up titled, Grace Based Parenting.

I loved it.  I was only going to parent this way and follow all these concepts.  After all, isn't that how God parents us?  Doesn't He extend new grace and mercies to us each day?  Well, for awhile this worked fine and I really tried to stick with these ideas.  Then, Addison came along and I found myself being less understanding and more dictatorish.  She knows exactly how to get under my skin and push all the right buttons.  However, we eventually figured out what discipline worked, didn't work and only spent minimal time crying with each other.  

When we started the foster care journey, I would read about friends who would tell of behaviors their child or toddler would do and I didn't really understand.  They would talk about rage, tantrums, food problems etc and quite honestly I blew it off.  I even thought...."that child came into care a toddler or baby, these problems aren't because of that??"  Then, I started working on a committee and we held a conference last year that I attended.  Oh my goodness.  My thinking could not have been more wrong.  I quickly realized that all of these children are coming from hard places regardless of the age they came into care.  Baby B went home from the hospital with a great family but he experienced loss the second he was removed from his birth mom.  He actually experienced loss in the womb, when he didn't received the proper care and nutrition our bio children receive.  

Right now, we have 2 girls that came into care in two very different ways.  One of them has come from a hard place because she has lost her birth parents and already moved families in this short time in her life.  Another one has come from a much different, more colorful hard place.  She was young when she came into care, but her experiences for the first year of her life started shaping and molding a child that looks very different from my bio kids and even her bio sister.  On the outside and in public, you wouldn't know this.  It's what makes people on the outside have such a hard time understanding.  

Yesterday morning I had a chance to visit with a friend for a few moments before heading to Bible Study.  This friend more than understands because she is walking all of this 3 years ahead of us.  We were talking, and she mentioned being a grace based parent.  She was simply talking about her own life and her own parenting, but God used those 3 words to hit me smack in the face.  I was not being grace based at all.  I was determined that with enough rules and boundaries she would eventually start towing the line.  I mean, it worked for Addison it would surely work for her right?

No.  Not at all.  Last night, she was in the bathtub and something set her off so she literally screamed at the top of her lungs over and over.  Now, before anyone jumps in and starts saying...."oh yeah, been there done that.  Typical 2 year old behavior"....just stop.  Yes, screaming and throwing fits are very typical 2 year old behavior.  The way it's handled is what is different.  There is no logic.  There is no scolding.  There is no...."listen to yourself....stop that before you go to your room....and so forth and so forth."  There is grace.  And love.  And mercy.  You acknowledge she is overwhelmed, you see if she wants to be held, you simply sit by her and let her scream, or you walk away so you can keep your composure.

I am so guilty of thinking that enough love will erase all bad memories (repressed or not).  I am guilty of thinking she will act the same as her sister or my bio kids.  I am guilty of letting people tell me how to parent her.  I am guilty of completely losing my cool and not making the right choices with her.  But, thankfully even when that happens I am so glad I have new grace extended to me daily and I don't have to live with that guilt.  I am praying so many things for these kids, all of them.  Some of them truly need more than what we can offer at home.  Some of them need therapeutic homes, therapy, counseling, etc.  The guilt can be stifling.  

I am praying I can successfully parent the ones I have.  I am praying for understanding.  I am praying for wisdom, patience, grace, mercy, knowledge.  You name it.  I was a difficult child and I think my mom would attest to that.  The irony is, I don't have much patience when my children disobey.  However, I love how much I am being taught through her.  If God can use ME.  Be patient with ME.  Stick with me through the college years, I can extend grace to a toddler who has been through more in her 2 1/2 short years than I ever have.