Fletchling

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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