From the editor: We are pleased to feature another article from Kelly Rose Waller today on the impact of Covid-19 specifically Social Distancing and Foster Care. As a Foster Mom herself, Kelly knows first hand the impact this pandemic is having on these families and these kids. The excerpt below provides some great insight, and we’ve included a link below to the full article.
Are there other moms out there who have been blessed by your state’s Early Intervention program? Google tells me this service has all kinds of names across the country: Help Me Grow, Baby Net, Birth to Three, Infants & Toddlers, Early Steps, First Connections, Babies Can’t Wait. This service in Pennsylvania has been awesome for us as foster parents. We’ve had three different “types” of therapists over the last three years—physical therapy (PT), speech therapy, and occupational therapy (OT).
(By the way, in case you’re unfamiliar—like I was—Occupational therapy, according to kidshealth.org, helps kids with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.)
What Is Early Intervention?
In our state, Early Intervention is a free service—yes, free—offered through the county that comes to your house—yes, to your house—to offer professional services to kids under age 3. As a foster mom who already drives my son to a lot of medical appointments, it’s life-changing. All you have to do is be home (and dressed). Continue reading
Unicef has a program called “1,000 Days.” It focuses on good nutrition during the first 1,000 days from the beginning stages of pregnancy until a child’s second birthday. Their website declares,
“Good nutrition in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday sets the foundation for all the days that follow… We are the leading non-profit organization working in the U.S. and around the world to improve nutrition and ensure women and children have the healthiest first 1,000 days.”
What an admirable mission!
The “1,000 days” period since my foster son came into our care (not since he was conceived, not since he was born) has now also come and gone. He has been a “ward of the state” (I shiver at that term) for almost 1,100 days in fact, still with no end in sight. For anyone not quick at math, yes, that’s three years “in the system.” Yes, that’s double the time that Federal law allows a child to live like this. Only there’s no one enforcing the law; the judge can flip past the case number literally as many times as it conveniences his grace’s schedule.
I consider myself a positive person. I’m upbeat, maybe even spunky. But the constant drone of the unknown in my child’s life sometimes threatens to squelch my smile. People mean well when they ask if there’s an update on a foster care placement, but there often isn’t. Even when I can give them a “court date” to look forward to, there’s a strong chance that nothing will happen.
Some people handle this with grace, saying that they’ll be praying about it or nodding in understanding that “the system” is hard to navigate. Other people ask questions I don’t have the answer to. Why aren’t they moving faster? Haven’t you told them X-Y-Z?
I realize more each day that God didn’t call me to be a foster parent because I would be good at it. He called me to be a foster parent to teach me how badly I need Him. (And possibly that I’m a control freak.)
When it comes to medical care, foster parents operate in a strange sphere – a kind of medical no man’s land! Because I have two biological kids, I was accustomed to a fairly standard procedure when it came to the seeing the doctor. When they were sick or needed a well-check, I’d call ahead to the doctor to schedule and appointment. On the day of, we’d check in, show an insurance card, see the doctor, pay a co-pay, and come home with a sticker (sometimes multiple stickers). It was pretty standard. Now that I’m a foster parent, the relative simplicity of those visits is now a thing of the past. Those were the good ol’ days!
Now, I’m sure the rules vary from state-to-state (as everything in the foster care system does), but in my home state of Pennsylvania, here’s how it looks…
First, birth parents have the right to always be present at medical appointments (as they should). But, honestly, it can be awkward. The kid might be cranky, the doctor NEVER knows who to talk to, and it can easily descend into an opportunity for the bio parents to visit with their child instead of participating or engaging in the appointment.
Some of the best advice I ever received in terms of drawing everyone’s focus back to the medical appointment at hand was to earnestly ask for the birth parent’s opinion on something. For example, Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Several weeks ago, we shared with you the story of Kelley Rose Waller, a Foster mom and contributor to Hope 4 Hurting Kids in an article titled The Winding Road of Foster Care and Adoption as Kelley and her family prepared for and attended what they hoped would be the final court date for their foster son of the last two years whom they’d like to adopt. This past week, Kelley wrote the next installment in that story which we share with you now.
We have presented excerpts from each of Kelley’s three articles below and encourage you to click-through to her blog to read the rest of the story.
Part 4: Waiting for Tomorrow
I can’t handle another emotional adrenaline rush, so I’m just enjoying today. Tomorrow we go to court. Again.
You know how in Terminator 2, Sarah Connor knows the truth about Skynet and the future and Judgment Day and death and approaching mayhem and no one believes her? She knows what’s coming, and she’s right. So she fights for what she believes and is “rewarded” by losing custody of her son and being institutionalized.
Granted, this gives us one of the awesomest girl-power scenes of all time (pull-ups on the side of your bed in a State Hospital is about as tough as you can get). But I sometimes feel for Sarah Connor as a foster parent.
Walk with me down this long, winding comparison:
Sarah’s hands get tied because she fights too hard for someone she loves. (Ridiculous. As if that’s possible.) She’s fighting primarily against a bunch of government employees who are overworked and underpaid and just don’t have any more energy to care. They no longer look at each situation – at each child – and feel empowered to say, “I can make a difference here.”
Editor’s Note: Many users of our site know Kelley Rose Waller as a Foster mom and contributor to Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Recently, she and her family prepared for and attended what they hoped would be the final court date for their foster son of the last two years whom they’d like to adopt. Kelley posted about the very real and heart-wrenching countdown to that date last week on her own blog (KelleyRoseWaller.com). For anyone involved in Foster Care, you might recognize some of your own journey in her heart wrenching account of the five days leading up that final court date. For those who know someone involved in this process, out prayer is that in Kelley’s story you will discover a new found or reinvigorated empathy for families you may know currently involved in the process. We are so grateful for Kelley’s transparency and willingness to share her own family’s journey with the users of Hope 4 Hurting Kids.
We have presented excerpts from each of Kelley’s three articles in the countdown and encourage you to click through to her blog to read the rest of the story.
Part 1: My Five-Day Countdown
Five days until a judge determines the future of my family.
Along with love, patience, faithfulness and the other fruits of the Spirit, foster parents need another important “fruit” in their lives: flexibility. My husband and I had taken our two biological sons to the zoo one Saturday in August a few years ago when we got our first foster placement call. It had been a long, fun day, the kind that leaves you happy but exhausted. Boy, did our plans for that evening change! I didn’t sleep much. Unexpectedly, we were making phone calls and moving furniture around because we were getting not one, but two babies!
You’ve gotta be flexible when you are told that birth family visits will be Tuesday night. No, wait, Wednesday morning. Sorry, didn’t Cathy tell you they got moved to Sunday afternoon? You’re early, they start at 3:30 not 2:00.
Beyond the immediacy of the little annoyances like changing schedules and waiting (oh, the endless sitting around in waiting rooms!) a big challenge in foster parenting is the overarching unknown of life. Most people live their life with a general idea of what the next six months will look like. Not foster parents! It’s April and someone just asked me if we had summer vacation plans. I said that we will probably leave for a week in June or July, but we had to wait to book because we weren’t sure how many rooms we’d need. [Insert blank stare.] Most people have 9 months to plan for a new family addition, but ours is unknown.
Imagine there was a tornado coming at your house. Suddenly and unexpectedly, you have to leave. You have less than five minutes — what do you grab? Unfortunately for children coming into foster care, they may have as little warning that they are entering a devastating emotional storm. Sometimes, even if the county is able to bring over a child’s own clothes and belongings the next day or a week later, the first night in foster care often leaves a child surrounded by strange, alien, unfamiliar items that bring little comfort. If you can help make them feel welcome, instead of like an unexpected houseguest, that’s a good step in the right direction. Remember, this probably feels like the worst day of this child’s life.
Here’s what I suggest you have on hand:
- A couple blankets and stuffed animal options — You’re probably not going to guess just the right stuffed bear out of all the bears in all the world, but if there’s anything that feels familiar and safe, that’s a win. Same goes for blankets: get a cotton one, a fleece one, a crocheted one, and a dimple dot one. Let the child have any or all that help.
- Clothes that fit — Keep in mind this means you might need pajamas and one versatile, all-season outfit for boys and girls in a huge range of sizes. Not all two-year olds fit a 2T! Get a range and judge what works best. Call friends with older kids and ask for a box of nice hand-me-downs with this night in mind.
- A new toothbrush — Maybe the child won’t want to brush (and I wouldn’t personally recommend dying on your sword for this the first night) but if they are willing, you want to be ready. Same goes for other personal hygiene items, depending on a child’s age: a new hairbrush and comb, a new deodorant, shampoo and lotion options appropriate for the child’s race or ethnicity.
- A crate or a pet-sitter for your critter — Sure, your dog is “part of the family,” but until you know how this new child will react to Fluffy, allow at least this first night without one more “unknown.”
- Easy food — This could mean many different things to many different kids, but having a bunch of choices is a good way to start. Noodles, chicken fingers, tater tots, and pizza with two gallons of ketchup for dipping may not be the healthiest meal, but a few bites of something is probably better than a howling tummy their first night sleeping in your home.
- Baby things — If you are taking foster placements of babies, you should have a good stock of various diaper sizes, wipes, a car seat/booster seat, bottles, formula, a crib, and every single style of pacifier you can possibly locate. (You never know which will be the golden ticket!)