Parenting Class, Week 5: Behaviors, Grief

Hi friends!

I loved the class last night. It was all about behaviors, traumas, and managing behaviors. We went over the meanings and reasons behind certain behaviors and several questions to ask ourselves as parents of these traumatized children.

Is this a growth or developmental stage?
Is this an individual or temperament difference?
Is the environment causing these behaviors?
Does the child know your expectations?
Is the child expressing unmet emotional needs?

Patience and repeating the message over and over again are necessary.
Validations and acknowledgements are so critical.
Most children in care are developmentally delayed.

Seriously, our child is going to be so bored at our house. We have nothing fun to do here and no kids in the area that we know. We really do need to find some friends with teens for him or her to hang out with.

The first bonding a child does after meeting the family is with the family pet more often than not. A pet does not judge and will love unconditionally. The teachers actually encouraged us to get a family pet and adopt it with the child. Um, no.. Not right now, thanks. Lola is enough of a handful.

We also discussed grief. Children (well, everyone) don’t follow the stages of grief in order and can easily be triggered and revisit the stages at any time. While in the grieving process, emotional outbursts, withdrawal, aggression, and attention seeking behaviors are all super common. Also, kids have very little if any control over their brains while grieving. Their actions are usually not premeditated and are impulsive/ “emotionally hijacked.”

Another thing I’ve thought about a lot was confirmed – kids can either be in the “honeymoon” phase upon move in or be  super problematic. Either there’s smooth sailing and everything is peaceful, or the kid acts out and is horribly behaved. Expectations are often that they will be sent back or kicked out. aka… HORRIBLE! They said to absolutely not give up at all. At. All.

Behaviors – there’s both positive and negative attention with behaviors. Literally we were told to IGNORE negative behaviors as long as they didn’t injure themselves, another person, or destroy property. Um, what? We really have to come up with a good system for consequences and behaviors. With a teenager, ignoring bad behaviors might not go over as well as with a little one. The thought process was they would eventually give up the negative behaviors and that paying attention to positive behaviors would strengthen them. Basically praise positive and ignore negative. Maybe… we’ll see. Again, teenager.

This afternoon we scoured the Florida photo listings of kids 10-16 and picked out a few that we want more information about. They were pretty much all 14-15. We still have no preference of boy or girl at this point. It’s going to really depend on the child.

 

I don’t know who is reading my blog lately, but there have been some major spikes in traffic and I love you all! Please drop a comment here or on my FB page. <3

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Parenting Class, Week 4: Normalcy and Cultural Competency

Hello! This week’s adoption parenting class was about normalcy and cultural competency and trying to not abruptly change the child’s life. After all, they were already torn away from their bio family, foster families, extended family, and so many other people. Fortunately, she will be NOT be coming to us directly from being torn away from her family, but there will still be plenty of damage to work through to assimilate into our little family. Hence why we need to be fully committed before meeting her in person.

Class last night started with everyone telling the story behind our name. There were several with family and religious names, a handful that didn’t have a story, and a couple cheating stories thrown in as well. It was amusing!

We learned the following about teens in foster care:

  • They can (now) get their drivers licenses – in the past it was forbidden.
  • They are encouraged to get a job or volunteer.
  • Dating is OK, but at the discretion of the foster parents – um no, my kid isn’t dating until 45! (No, not really..)
  • They are required to receive an allowance, but foster parents set the amount.
  • By age 13, all foster children received classes in Independent Living Services such as life skills training, career counseling, and time management assistance. This can in no way be a replacement for living with a family and learning to cook, do laundry, balance a checkbook, etc.
  • Pell grants without pulling parental income are available to all children older than age 13 when they’re adopted.
  • All children in and adopted from foster care are eligible for a tuition waiver for all Florida state colleges. We still have to pay room, board, food, and books, but tuition is a huge chunk! Plus those Pell Grants..

Back to the allowance thing, chores are an acceptable way to determine the amount, but money for school lunch and movie funds are part of it as well. And foster parents must keep track of how much they give. It seems like a good number of our class are leaning towards older kids as this spiked good conversation – plus jokes about mandatory allowance and where was this when we were growing up?!

Later in class, we were all given a bucket of beads. Each color represented a different racial background  and we had to select beads that represented us, our parents, siblings and children, our extended family, our close friends and coworkers, and our neighbors and community. Ours was pretty much 60% Caucasian with about 30% each African American and Hispanic.

We split up into groups a few times to brainstorm on questions about culture, normalcy, and our response to dumb question. We might’ve gone super sarcastic with our questions as they were from the adopted parents viewpoint.. In my group, we had these questions:

  • Do you have any real children of your own? Nope, just imaginary ones – and – This one feels pretty real to me.
  • What do you know about his real parents? They tasted like chicken.

And bc we missed This Is Us last night due to class, we watched it today. I basically cried through the entire episode. I mean.. really?! This entire season is about adoption OF A TEENAGER!

I’ll be honest, I felt pretty disconnected from class this week. I just want to get this whole process over with. I told the story of Ballerina to a co-worker today and it brought up all kinds of horrible feelings about a CHILD in foster care making decisions for herself and the people that should protect her… well, not doing their job. Is our future child dealing with this somewhere? Man, I truly hope not. 🙁

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Parenting Class, Week 3: Partnerships, Attachment, and Commitment

This was a really emotional class for me and many others. The teachers discussed attachments, commitment, and partnerships – with our child, case workers, with foster parents, with biological parents, and everyone else. We will have support of everyone within the system even post-adoption for several years OR until our child turns 18.

One of the exercises in class was a meditation where the lights were dimmed and we were walked through what it feels like to have your family, belongings, and life ripped away from us to never get them back again. Another exercise was writing down 5 things that make up our life and help to define who we are. Then slowly they were taken away – all but one. These were both to show how difficult it is to be a foster child. By the time we would even meet these children, they will have been minimum of 1 year in foster homes.

We were told that kids that are close to aging out at 18 can opt to extend their foster care to age 21. This gives them the opportunity to not age out and be turned out on their own, to keep their health coverage, and so many other things. But above all, to have a family, even if temporary, that can give them some stability, love, and guidance. And hopefully get rid of part of their attitude from bouncing around in foster care.

Bc who wants to adopt a teenager with a shitty attitude?

Me.
We do.
We want to make him or her feel loved and cherished and know that they won’t be shuffled around from home to home and family to family. We want our child to know what it means to be able to love and trust the people that take care of them.

We learned that we must be 100% committed to the child before meeting them in person. Let that sink in.. We were all a little taken aback by this. I mean, how can you be fully committed to someone that you have never met? Photos and a blurb online aren’t enough for this!

Let me back up a second… We have been given a piece of paper (at the bottom) with photo listings from every county in Florida and the national boards. We have to sign a paper (below) stating that we know the search is our responsibility. Once we identify a child that we want more information about, we will let our case worker know. If we are a good match, we will be provided with all of their records, photos, and learn absolutely everything that is currently known about them during the full disclosure process.

After reviewing this information, we can still say no and keep searching. If we say yes, the visits will begin. They will be slow at first and will eventually result in overnights, weekend stays, and then the child moving in to our home. After moving in, there is a minimum 90 day period before the adoption is finalized. This seems fast, right? In 90 days, anything can happen. Or can’t.. Honeymoon period and all that.

Basically, after the full disclosure, we need to be 100% committed to the child bc there is no going back. This seems daunting and a little scary, truthfully. But once we meet them in the setting of “we plan on adopting you,” saying no afterwards is just another devastating rejection for the child.

Much like with Ballerina, an older child is able to also decide if we are cool enough to meet and be our child forevermore. This is going to be a totally mutual decision for the 3 of us – and allllllll the support that we have to ensure the perfect fit.

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Parenting Class, Week 2: Trauma

Last night’s PIP class was on TRAUMA. We identified types of trauma that the kids deal with throughout their lives and especially how they came into the system.

Quite frankly, it was a deep and meaningful class full of emotions. On our drive home, we discussed how we wish we had taken this class before our last one to better understand the process.

The teachers spent about 20 minutes discussing the differences between fostering and adoption and may have changed the minds of some of our classmates. They hammered the fact of very very few children under age 8 being available and most being over age 12. Again, they pushed the fact that we, as adoptive parents, are the very last in a long line of potential parent figures. See the diagram at the very bottom.

There is absolutely no sugar coating with this agency.

And I love that. <3<3 

I was asked the other day what the timeline would be for a child to be in our home. Well, if the home study process (which began last week) really does take 6 months, then it can be as few as 6 months and as long as.. well.. never.

Hubby and I were discussing potential children on Monday. I asked what happens if our best match is a 15-year-old. He said fine. I asked would it be a boy or girl. He asked if it would be a teen mom which then led to a whole conversation about teen mom + infant making us basically instant grandparents at 41 and 46. Honestly, I would not have a problem with that as long as she stayed in school and went back after giving birth. We would figure out how to take care of the baby around our work and school schedules as well as help her with her homework.

But, I digress. We have no idea who we will match with or how many pregnant teen moms there are in the system. I kinda want to email our case worker now to ask..

Back to trauma, they also made sure to tell us children can heal over time. They can overcome their traumas within reason and accept love as it’s meant to be given without abuse and neglect. Also, we were told to not expect a scholarly child or one that acts their chronological age. It is entirely possible that a 15-year-old child will act 10-12 years old or even younger.

Other effects of trauma are sleep problems, moodiness, trouble learning, misperceptions of danger, trouble trusting anyone, unsafe feelings, physical illness, and trouble adapting to change.

5 more classes to go. We have a list of all the paperwork and assignments due for each class including our individual life stories, journaling assignments, fingerprints, background checks, physicals, and so much more.

Click image to view it much larger

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Parenting Classes in Palm Beach

For those not reading on the blog itself, please check it out as there is a new blog design! I’ve moved from an owl family to a penguin family and they’re so darn sweet! And this time they all match – same colors as we will be a family unit no matter what we look like.

To the many friends (and fangirls!) I have made since our last attempt at adoption from foster care, there are literally hundreds of posts detailing, venting, and reviewing that time in our life. I welcome you to skim it if you are interested, but be forewarned that it will likely both make you cry and piss you off and will certainly tug at your heartstrings. I mean, I’m a good writer.. 😉 But seriously, it was 3-4 years from sheer joy to pure heartbreak and every emotion in between. Clearly, it did not result in a child in our home..

For this go around, I will have a different tag so as not to confuse the two. Miami was simply “adoption” since I literally never expected it would fall apart. Everything for our Palm Beach adoption process will be tagged as “PB-adopt.”

Last night, September 19th, we had our first PIP (Partners in Parenting) class. Like PRIDE before, this is a 7 week class during which we will learn about children in care, our roles, our goals, and so much more. In this class, there are a total of 26 students, us included.

Here is what we know so far…

  • CHS in Palm Beach is strictly an adoption only agency. To foster, parents must go through a different agency entirely. I have never heard of this before! In Miami, all agencies did both.
  • We broke out into groups to do strengths/ needs for specific scenarios.
  • We were later all given cards – half as foster/ adoptive kids and half as foster/ adoptive parents – and had to find our match.. or not. Not everyone had a match. Deep.
  • Our 2 teachers (who split the class based on our home’s location) are responsible for completing our home studies. We will not be assigned to another case worker or languish in the system waiting on anyone. We have 7 weeks to get to know each other, build our books/ profiles, then go from there for the home visit and finalization.
  • We should have our home studies in hand within 6 months. I am not being optimistic or getting my hopes up. (I know, I know.. you’ve heard this before.)

The Matching Process

  • WE are responsible for finding our child via the multitude of Heart Galleries, online profile listings, and state and national adoption websites.
  • Once we find a child we are interested in learning more about, we send the ID and their name to our case worker. She will then reach out to their case worker and see if we are a match.
  • If so, we move forward with learning about them by reviewing their profiles and asking any questions we have about behaviors, education, whatever.
  • From there, if both case workers feel we are still a good match, a meeting is arranged.
  • Blah blah blah.. we have visits of all lengths and locations. If all goes well, we do sleepovers as well.
  • Eventually the child moves in for a minimum of 90 days before finalization.
  • And then… finalization! We are parents!

Yes, this is extremely generalized. I know this. You know this. Everyone knows this.

Every week we will have an in-class quiz (group shouting out the answers type thing) and homework to complete which all builds up to completing our official signed home study document. Homework seems to be repeats of last time like our life stories, feelings on certain situations, photos of ourselves, Lola, and our home, and other stuff about who we are.

I am already enjoying this class and the teachers. It is great, in my opinion, to get to know our case worker throughout the entire class as opposed to a random assignment. They will be much more vested in our finding our perfect match this way.

…Until next week…

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A Twist of Fate

We have been hesitant about restarting the adoption process after the utter disaster we had in Miami.

This week, I am in Boynton Beach for my new job. I’ve been staying in an Airbnb alone with hubby at home with Lola and all the packing. All day yesterday I was thinking about Friday’s for dinner. All. Freakin. Day.

Well on a whim, I went to Alehouse instead where I happened to hear a couple across the restaurant mention that they’re adopting. I so so badly want to go over and drill them about how, their timeline, and which agency. I felt like a total creeper, but I did it anyway. Hey, at least I waited until after they paid their check and were leaving.

Thank you:  https://favim.com/hopeful/

I approached them outside and she was apprehensive when a total stranger said “I happened to overhear, but are you guys adopting?” So I quickly added that we’d been trying in Miami for several years with no luck and are moving here next week. They both opened up pretty quickly afterwards. And showed me a photo of their future daughter plus gave me names of a handful of other children they’d met along the way.

It took them under a year from their classes, 2 weeks to complete their home study, and their overnight visits start next weekend. They are straight adoption as well and have had ZERO problems and are not required to have a foster license. (Miami agencies refused to consider us for adoption unless we got our foster license.) She said they do a ton of mixers up here to be able to meet the adoptable kids (which we kept asking for in Miami!) and positively raved over the woman I’ve already been in touch with at ChildNet. Their future little one is 4 years old and they’re accelerating the visitation schedule due to her age. She will be living with them within a few weeks. We exchanged info and they said to contact them anytime with questions.

THEY GAVE ME SO MUCH HOPE YOU GUYS!! I called husband to tell him what happened and even he was getting a little bit excited. We so badly want to parent and this may be the solution! Pregnancy may not happen with all the medical issues I’ve been having, but it’s also not being ruled out.

Thank you: https://orlandoespinosa.wordpress.com

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Moving North & Revisiting Adoption

Hello!

Thought I’d pop back in and share an updated photo. I’ve now lost over 165lbs. Also, this handsome little nugget is my amazing 16 month old nephew. The photo on the right was taken at his mama’s baby shower for baby brother due in 2 months.

Also ready for a crazy life update… Ready?
* I ran my first 10K in Disney World for the Princess Weekend. It was amazingly fun except that I got violently ill and spent 2 days seemingly on death’s door..
* We ran the Star Wars 10K also in Disney World for my 2nd 10K and his 1st. I shaved 10 minutes off my time from Princess and he finished about 40 minutes before me.
* We are moving! Getting out of Miami and heading about 80 miles north to Boynton Beach as I have accepted a position in Boca Raton.
* We have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant for a few months now since my body seems to be working for the first time in.. ever? This was definitely a result of my losing so much weight. Apparently my RE knew what he was talking about with weight and PCOS.
* There’s a lot more, but at this point, does it matter?
* As an offshoot of our moving away from Miami, we will be attempting to adopt again. We are both hoping that Palm Beach County has their shit together unlike Miami.
*Tonight I contacted the lead agency in Palm Beach and started looking again at the available children on AdoptFlorida.org. I am beyond disgusted that I recognized several children with updated photos from 3-4 years ago still listed and still looking for families. Children that we requested information about.

I’m not entirely certain if we are ready for this heartbreak again, but we want a family. We want a child or 2. We don’t know if I will be able to get pregnant and don’t want to miss out on being parents. We agree we’d love any child we bring into our family by any means. I always said if we didn’t get pregnant in X years, we would revisit adoption. Apparently it was more of, “if we get out of Miami, we will revisit adoption.”

So here we go again… adoption.

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Hi

My life has taken a major change and blogging is the last thing on my mind. I don’t foresee many more posts on here, but please keep me in your feeds bc you never know when I’ll feel like writing. =)

I am on a major health journey and have lost 80lbs since February and feel like a whole new person! I have more to lose, but am thoroughly enjoying how I feel these days. A huge plus to losing so much weight is the possibility of getting pregnant without drugs. So we’ll see how that works out. I bought running shoes and an awesome bike and signed up for 2 Disney 10K races in February and April plus some local 5K races. I may have an obsession with virtual races and complete all my miles on the treadmill at the gym.

My handsome nephew is now 7 months old. I don’t get to see him very much, but cherish every moment when I do and love all the photos I get of him. He is such a sweet baby!

We (yes, collectively) have given up on the foster system in Miami. I have zero faith in it and have quit the Board of the association effective September 30th. We aren’t even getting into this anymore. I’m so fed up. Just am thankful for the amazing handful of friends we met along our 3+ year journey with nothing to show for it.

We spent a week in San Diego for Comic Con and it was the single greatest week I’ve had in a long time. Our wedding week in Vegas is the only thing to compete.

I got a new job! And I freakin love it. I still work on Miami Beach, but in a position of considerable power in an organization that will help me with my future political career.

Still in MPA classes – 4th semester. Graduation is next summer. I will then be able to rule the world.

My 40th birthday is on Friday.

Forty and Fabulous 40

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The Changing Tides…

So I had this great post lined up talking about my new nephew, WEB. He is beautiful and perfect and I couldn’t wait to hold and snuggle him. But for various reasons, this is a different kind of post.

Now, this will just be a normal update.

San Diego Comic ConFor starters, we – husband and I – are ridiculously fortunate to have scored badges to San Diego Comic Con this year!!!! (Every single type of badge sold out in under 60 minutes…) Y’all know just how much we love our cons as we’ve been attending Megacon and Supercon for the last 5 years and this year we attended Magic City for the first time. Seeing as SDCC is clear across the country, we are making a vacation out of it and spending a few days before and after to really soak everything in. The OMG feeling still hasn’t disappeared 3 days later.

School is good. I met a lot of great contacts at an ASPA conference last week.

Work is work… you know how that goes.

I currently have a super mild case of strep that I caught from 1 of 2 sources, both at work.

We attended WordCamp Miami this weekend and it was fantastic! Of course it pumped me up again to incorporate and push my design business again. It happens every year, and every year I do nothing.

Adoption? Nothing really. As you know I am on the Board of SFFAPA and very involved in the foster and adoption world. Will our child come to us this way? I honestly don’t know anymore. We have begun to explore both international-ish adoption and private newborn adoption. Of course, there is an extremely high cost associated with both of these and the benefits of a foster adoption aren’t part of either option. For example, international and private adoptions don’t provide free college tuition which would suck! That was a huge thing for us as we want our children to attend some sort of college of vo-tech school.

For those wondering, WEB was born on the 9th and had initial troubles but finally went home on the 15th. He was preemie so they are under self-imposed quarantine for a few more weeks.

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It’s Been A While….

Hey friends!

I am still around. Things are crazy busy between my MPA (I ended my first semester with 2 A’s!!), working 2 jobs, freelancing, volunteering with my board and trying to keep my head above water. Husband graduated with his MBA in December and started his Doctorate this month. Needless to say, we’ve been keeping very busy since we have no children still.

To be fair, we did stop the foster license process back in August when I was beginning my Master’s classes. We do have a contingency plan in the instance of getting the opportunity to parent.

What we’ve been up to since the last post (I know, I always do these..)

  • We celebrated 5 years married on 10-10-10!
  • We found out we are having a NEPHEW(!!) in February from my baby brother and his girlfriend. For our longtime readers, they came to Vegas with us for our wedding.
  • I got a new laptop – only a big deal to my techies, but it’s lighter and smaller which means I can throw it in my bag and carry it with me everywhere to do homework and freelance work.
  • My Foster association created a petition to help foster children and within the 1st day we got over 1,000 signatures! We have surpassed 5,600 to date.
  • I became active in the Miami Geek Girls Brunch chapter and made awesome new geeky friends.
  • Puppykins developed a horrible ulcer in her eye and had to wear a cone for a month. She hated it and slept the best in her life the day we removed the cone.
  • Met. Richelle. Mead. Only one of my all time authors on the planet!
  • Decided to leave Miami. Like for real this time. There may be a slight bump in the plans, but I can’t discuss it at the moment.
  • Met Peter Davidson.
  • Met Jenna Coleman.
  • Met Billie Piper.
  • Meeting Matt Smith tonight!

I feel bad saying I’ll post more and then not. But I will try

 

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Hello!

helloCan we just ignore that I promised to update more and haven’t? Seriously, I am sorry about that. Life is, as expected, crazy.

In the last 2.5 months, we (I) made the decision to pause our foster application due to all the insanity in our lives. Between my starting grad school, the 4-5 hour round trip commute to work each day (it’s gotten worse 🙁 ), being Communications Chair for the South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parent Association and my constant house hunting (I really want to own a home!)… PLUS Husband’s finishing his MBA and applying for a Doctorate and his work, we barely have time to sleep. Also, I have been actively job hunting and made it to the final rounds with 2 jobs but things happened and, wibbly wobbly, both fell through.

Then I turned 39! And we went to Painting With A Twist with a small group of friends. Husband, SIL, and I went off book and made our paintings our very own by not really following directions all that well…

And on October 10th is our 5th wedding anniversary!

Since we do, in fact, have the ability to time this avenue of bringing a child into our home, we are taking advantage. Also, in the last few weeks, I have been really drawn to changing our age range to teens or at least an older age range. Right now we are approved to adopt 3-8 year old children. I’ve been thinking about upping it to 12 or 13. The older kids are more rewarding from what I am getting from my friends that foster teens as you can speak to and reason with them. While I would love the cuddles of a little one, well I have plenty of friends with little ones plus, a new baby in my family is coming soon!!

Now, frequent visitors will have noticed that there is finally a new blog design. I changed my hosting, rearranged a few domains and hopefully it will speed everything up. Also, I plan on using FletcherFam.com as a family focused website as opposed to just this blog which is very child-focused. I will post here when that goes live.

From last post, my MPA classes are going well so far. This semester I am in an “intro” to Public Administration and a Human Resources course. I promised more info last time. With all the heartaches and hardship we’ve gone through with the adoption process in the last 2 years, I finally decided that something needed to be done. My ultimate “grown up” goal is to be the COO or CEO of a foster care agency or government entity working towards the protection of children. In 5 years, I hope to have graduated and be working in the industry. This MPA will supplement the knowledge I gained from my MBA to focus on non-profits and government agencies.

I hope you’re all well!

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