Monday, January 28, 2008

Put your hands up and hold onto your stomachs!

The roller coaster is in full swing.

I went to Lily's SAR (semi-annual administrative review) this morning fully prepared to leave in a dark mood. I also thought I might meet Lily's "dad". But turns out, neither happened.

Only us, Lily's CW and his supervisor showed - no GAL and neither parent.

We went over the caseplan, talked about the strengths and weaknesses of both bioparents and their families and did some interesting risk assessment scales - I've never been to an SAR so it was nice to see how that process works.

During the course of the review I found out some interesting stuff about Lily's "dad" - apparently he has been using for 2 to 3 years and he really is the one who got Lily's mom hooked. Also, he is depressive, has an anxiety disorder and is not employed. He lives at home with his mother and his grandparents.

At some point during the last visit, Lily's paternal grandmother asked her son to leave the room so she could speak with the cw privately. That's when she filled him in on all of this, indicated she didn't think her son could parent in the short or long term and inquired about whether any of M.'s family had offered to take Lily. She seemed open to this possibility. But she has also stated that she wanted Lily placed with her, so it's hard to know what her real intentions are.

During the hearing, they asked if we would be interested in adopting Lily if it "came to that". We responded that we certainly would and I told the cw that he could let Lily's paternal family know that we would allow them to visit with her, provided the visits were safe and healthy for Lily. The CW suggested it might be a good idea for us to let Lily's paternal grandma know that.

It seems as if he was implicitly suggesting that we should let her know so that she could back away and we could adopt Lily. I might be misreading the situation but I don't think I am. PB felt the same undertone.

My gut had kind of been telling me to call the grandma, just so she would know we were OK people who love Lily very much, but I haven't yet. I guess I will now. At this point, I don't think it could hurt and it might change the case.

Lily's CW is hoping to file PCC or attempt reunification after the June hearing, which means this should all be settled by December at the latest - either we can adopt her if they file PCC or they'll close the case after a successful reunification with family. So there's a light at the end of a very long tunnel. That's good, right?

Friday, January 25, 2008

I forgot, I still have ovaries!

Well, I didn't really forget, but I wish I could. And PB will wish he could to in about... 4 days. When I take my first Clomid in about two yearsish.

That's right kids. We're jumping back on the IF treadmill. Why you might ask? Because we want to have a biological child? Because I just can't wait to be pregnant? Because we want to see what my nose looks like with PB's hair? Or, because it's been way too peaceful around here and we knew a hormonally crazed woman would shake things up a bit?

Nah. It's just because we know that a biokid would definitely stay. If I get pregnant, I hope my child doesn't realize conception was our second choice. I wouldn't want them to have a complex or anything.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The fallout from visits

When we did our preservice training, they told us all about the fallout of visits for our children. They told us about how older kids will be confused, will be angry, and will act out, some in dramatic ways. They even told us that babies might react (which I think Lily does, BTW, mostly with an increased anxiety about strangers). PB and I talked about this a lot, and we thought that we could intellectually understand that it was not about us, and try to remove the personal aspect from the situation. I think that worked pretty well for us when BeBe was here.

But I never thought about what the fallout would be like for me.

If you remember, Lily's mom visited for a while, went to jail, visited for another short while and then kind of diappeared. At that time, I was really assumiing she would go home, either to Mom or to her aunt, and the visits didn't bother me too much because I saw them as necessary for everyone - Lily, her mom, and her aunt. Lily continues to visit with her aunt all day long every Friday. And I love that she gets that time with her family - they love her, and she loves them and they all clearly enjoy their day.

Lily's dad had his first visit three weeks ago yesterday. Last week he called to cancel and didn't have a visit. This week he did visit. And frankly, it has rocked my world. I came home in a foul mood last night. I snapped at PB repeatedly, which luckily he called me on, and he's the one who actually made the link to the visit. I had a gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach whenever I looked at Lily.

It's because I'm threatened. I'm scared to death that he will get her back. In fact, I can't even imagine anything that is more terrifying to me right now, and believe me when I tell you that I'm a big, fat scaredy cat. It's just interesting that I'm having a stronger, almost visceral reaction to dad's visits compared to mom's visits. I think it's partially because I realized very early on that Lily's mom and her aunt loved and would do the right thing for her, whether that meant taking care of her or letting her stay with us.

But it's not like I've met Dad or really have any impression of him. I have his mom's cell phone number but haven't called her yet. I don't know why that is - partially I think I'm afraid to and partially it's because I have no idea what to say to them. It's probably because somewhere during the last 9 months I let myself assume she would stay.

You know, either that or I secretly have issues with men. But I don't think that's it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

So I might get a little political....

If you are pro-life and offended by people who are not, you might want to click on any one of the links to the right hand side of my blog now. Well, except for Yondalla and Dawn, who blogged for choice yesterday.

I am a potential adoptive parent and I am prochoice. People have actually asked me how that's possible, and I'm not really sure I understand the question. Do I want to adopt a baby? Absolutely. Do I want to adopt a baby that a woman was forced to carry for nine months and deliver, then relinquish, because she didn't have access to a safe medical procedure that she elected to have? Absolutely not.

Abortion is a critical issue for me, because of what it says about womens as agents. To be honest, what infuriates me most about the abortion debate is that the underlying message is that women can't be trusted to make reasonable decisions about their own lives and their own bodies. That's why I've been particularly annoyed as of late to see anti-abortion messages about how limiting access to abortion is about protecting women.

I can see how people might have a moral objection to abortion. But when the debate shifts from a genuine disagreement about a moral issue to saving women from themselves by preventing them from from making decisions they don't understand the consequences of, well that really sets me off. Because it assumes that most women who have abortions do so without thinking about it, without any pain or deliberation.

And now, thanks to Broadsheet (which I love, love, love) I've come across a wildly interesting phenomenon called Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS, for short). You might initially think, as I did, that this refers to the anguish that some women feel about abortions they have had in the past. But no.

It's about the emotional trauma men feel when their partners / wives / significant others / one night stand partners have an abortion.

It seems that the anti-abortion movement is now co-opting the probably genuine suffering of these men to shift the focus of the issue. It's not just about the rights of the unborn, now we have to consider the potential suffering that might befall a woman who has an abortion AND the potential suffering of the man whose partner has an abortion. Broad sheet calls this shifting the pronoun - she (woman / mother) isn't having an abortion, they (woman and man / parents) are.

Honestly, I don't understand the controversy about the rights of men when it comes to abortion. I think this is because abortion for me is fundamentally about a woman's right to make her own choices. If men could have abortions then it would be about a man's right to make his own choices too, but they can't. The fact that women can have an abortion or can choose to be a parent, but a man can't, is a consequence of biology, not a political issue (at least for me).

Is it possible that a man might suffer as a result of his partner's decision to have an abortion? Sure. But it's possible for our partners to suffer about a lot of decisions that we make. Decisions to have affairs, decisions to quit jobs, decisions to buy big ticket, luxury items, decisions to leave the marriage. Even joint decisions about things can lead to regret...

But you know what? It's not the government's job to protect me (or my partner) from potential regret about choices that I make. And it's certainly not the government's job to tell me what I can and can't do with my body. It's not my partner's job, either, for that matter.

No matter how the event is (re)framed... we don't have an abortion. I do. So, ultimately, it's my choice.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lily at 9 (almost 10!) months AKA a post pretty much about how great she is

Lily went to the doctor on Saturday for her 9 month checkup. The stats:
  • Weight: a little over 16 lbs (25th percentile)
  • Height: 27 inches long (27th percentile)
  • Head circumference: didn't catch measurement, but it's in the 90th percentile
Overall, she is doing really well, and doc was very pleased with her progress. She has been doing all of the things she's supposed to (babbling, eating table food, crawling, pulling to a stand) for a couple of months now. He was very impressed that she is already drinking almost exclusively from a cup.

She amazes me every day. Despite that fact that she has no teeth, she eats like gangbusters. Sunday she ripped a piece off of pancake off a larger piece in order to eat it, which she's never done before, and she decided she *hearts* baby bananas (which I didn't even know existed).

She waves, says hi, bye-bye, and baby (pretty much interchangeably, without any real meaning). She likes to play the "give you something, you give it back to me" game, and she is obsessed with a little ride on / push car she got for Christmas. Oh, and a singing Pablo, from the Backya.rdigans, which actually is kind of cute..... the first 1000 times you hear him sing. But, she does love it beyond reason - she bounces and giggles and gives him big kisses. So I guess he stays.

She is really into pointing right now. I'm not sure if she's getting the idea that things have names or if she just really enjoys getting people to respond to her. She is learning things so fast and getting so big. It's hard to believe how far she's come. I'm so proud of her and I love to watch her figure things out right in front of me.

Despite that it I gotta admit it does bum me out just a little bit to have to pack away her little stuff... the last of the bottles went this weekend, which made me a little sad.

But, overall, it's a good time for now. A very good time. We'll see what next week (her semi-annual administrative review) brings.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On a different note...

I need some advice. If anyone out there cloth diapers.

Yeah, I switched to cloth. Because the older I get the more hippie I become. Well, that, and you know a really nasty case of recurring diaper rash.

Anyway, three questions for anyone out there who has cloth diapered:
  1. Wet or dry pail?
  2. Any kind of pretreater for stains that works and doesn't cause buildup?
  3. Any kind of diaper cream you can use with cloth without ruining them?
Comments much appreciated.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's about a failure to protect

In the comments to my last post, Yondalla commented:
With the people who knew but did not act, I am more interested in their ability to keep the child safe in the future than whether they had a good reason for not acting in the past.
I think that's true. Don't get me wrong. It would still *really* bother me that anyone who knew about abuse or neglect wouldn't at least try to stop it... especially a relative or close friend. It seems to me they, of all people, have a responsibility to act. After all, if the child is older and knows that a friend or family members knows, the implicit message is that what's happening is OK, or that they deserve it.

Analyzing reasons for action or inaction is probably very difficult and as, Steph points out, very subjective. It's probably also nearly impossible to do with any accuracy.

But I'm not sure that predicting future action or inaction is that much easier or less subjective. And, if a system is predisposed to one outcome (reunification with biological families) then the subjectivity might be likely to cloud accurate judgments. When predicting future action, biorelatives will get the benefit of the doubt. Which is not a bad thing, except that we are considering the futures and welfare of REAL children, children who could be hurt because someone thought *this* time their families might pull it together and protect them.

So I guess the question still stands - how can we predict that an adult who is seeking placement of a child can prevent future abuse, if they did nothing or very little to prevent past abuse? And the larger question I'm really driving it is, I think, whether reunification with biofamilies as the primary case goal in all cases is a good one?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Allowing Harm

I've been talking with some foster care friends of mine, and I've been thinking about another thorny issue when it comes to biological parents.

As I think I've said before I have no sympathy for people who abuse their children. In my opinion, ALL abusers should face criminal charges (e.g. not just those who commit really egregious acts of abuse, whatever that means) and I don't think the system should try to reunify with abusers.

But what about those who allow abuse to occur? The young mom of the two month old who lived with a dad who broke his arm? The mom of the 10 day old who didn't know who had shaken her baby so violently that she will be severely mentally delayed, blind and unable to walk for the rest of her life? The uncle who knew that his sister was using drugs and neglecting her kids but did nothing to intervene? The grandparents who suspected boyfriend was sexually abusing the 3 year old but didn't intervene?

Should those people have custody? Should they receive services to support reunification? I have to say, I'm not sure. I know these family members haven't harmed the child. I know there must have been tons of reasons why they didn't intervene, that the mom whose child's arm was broken might have been a victim of domestic abuse herself, that the mom whose baby was shaken might have had to leave her with an unsafe relative in order to keep her job.

But I'm not sure I care. Well, not that I don't care. I do care, in a macro level, systematic way. I do wish women didn't have to live with abusers and didn't have to choose between making a living for their children while leaving them in subpar childcare and living meagerly off public assistance. But, as much as I don't like it, we live in a world with these realities.

And when it comes down to a real child in a real situation, I don't know. To me, the failure to protect a child is a serious issue. Although the uncle didn't want his sister to use drugs and didn't want his nieces and nephews to be abused and neglected, the fact of the matter is he allowed it, or at best didn't stop it. And even if the mom was young, and scared of her boyfriend, she still was present while he hurt her child.

The bigger question is how do we determine what potential relative placements ought to have done to prevent the abuse or neglect in the first place? And how can we know what they will do, in the future, should such situations happen again? One possibility is to say that if there is any evidence the potential relative placement was aware of the issue and didn't try to solve it, we won't place with them. But how could we ever know what they really tried to do? And what if they tried to help and failed? Maybe placement is OK then, if they haven't participated in any of the abuse or neglect themselves.

I just don't know. But I don't like the thought of sending children home with people who knew they were being harmed and were unable OR unwilling to stop it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's My Motivation?

Yondalla has recently written a really interesting set of posts regarding philosophy, morality and children who need care their biological parents can't necessarily provide. Her most recent post really got me thinking about motivation - what drives people to be foster parents or to adopt.

See, one of my big pet peeves is people who thank us for being foster parents or tell us what good people we are for fostering. Because to be perfectly honest, that's not why we do it.

Before I proceed, let me be perfectly clear: PB and I always intended to do foster care. We had talked about it a lot back in the days when we (read I) weren't sure that we would ever be parents. We thought it might be a way for us to have some interaction with kids and also help kids in crisis. So we aren't doing foster care simply because we want to adopt.

But we are doing foster care NOW primarily because we want to adopt; when we discussed foster care previously it was in the context of far into the future. As such, we are only taking babies. And I think most people who have spent any amount of time around a baby know that they give you way more than you give them, especially once they're past the first 6 weeks of constant neediness.

We are fostering to adopt because we want to be parents. We are also committed to the idea of foster care and fairly repulsed by most of the practices we've come across in private domestic adoption. So we are fostering primarily because of a self interested desire to be parents, balanced with a desire not to participate in what we feel is a less than ethical system.

I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I think most people, most of the time do most things for self-interested reasons. Not that people always do things to gain some material good. But that most people do the things that make them feel good and avoid things that don't. Doing things that make you feel good is self interest. Some people feel good when they help kids, some people feel good when they steal things... the underlying motivation, though, I think is the same, right?

Maybe some people foster because other people (their friends, their family, their church, their community) will reward them for fostering - either through praise or social interaction, etc. Maybe some people foster because it keeps them active and young. Maybe some people foster to build a family. Maybe some people foster because they were in foster care and had a good experience and want to give back and other people foster because they had a terrible experience in foster care and want to help others avoid it. And, even though we don't like it, and it's not as common as everyone seems to think it it, yes, there are people who foster to make money.

So there are still a wide range of reasons for doing things, but they boil down, I think to an underlying motivation of self-interest. And I think even noble intentions, like "saving" children - a terminology I really dislike - are undertaken because doing so makes us feel good either directly (we feel better about ourselves) or indirectly (we like the positive attention we get, etc).

I'm not sure if I'm expressing this well or not. My main point, I think is that people can be motivated because there's something in it for them, but that can still lead to them doing good things for other people. So I'm OK with the fact that we are fostering for self-interested reasons because I think most people are.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

And in a completely random turn of events

I received some pictures of Baby Bear (our first placement) in the mail on Friday. He is 15 months old now with a mouthful of teeth and a bunch of curly hair. Still as cute as ever.

I was really surprised to get the letter; I really didn't expect to ever hear from them again. Apparently his mom had another baby. It's a girl - 6 weeks old. So I think she must have got pregnant again right after she got Baby Bear back.

At any rate, it's good to hear that he's OK.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm a mess.

Huh. It felt kind of good to type that just now.

Yesterday was a rough day. CW called late morning - I was home with Lily because on of our sitter's daughters is sick. Ever since then, I've been struggling. I can't look at Lily without losing it. Which makes things like diaper changing and bathing and playing patty cake SO.MUCH.FUN.

I didn't sleep well last night so I've got a big freaking headache. I don't want to be at work, but I don't particularly want to go home either. Well maybe if I could go home and go straight to bed. For a year.

You know, it really irks me to have this uncontrollable, visceral reaction. I want to be the foster mom who really does whole-heartedly support reunification. I want to have the mindset I had with Lily's mom - that if Lily was the reason she cleaned herself up and if she could get it together and be an acceptable placement, then good! I want to see a father who wants to step up to take responsibility for his child as a good thing.

But I don't. And I think it's because I've made the mistake of beginning to feel like Lily is my child. A child that doesn't need anyone else to take responsibility for her, one that has more love, more family than she could ever possibly need.

This is the reason I didn't ever want think about how her case might turn out and why I scoffed when people said she was "the one". I did try really hard not to imagine the future - I freaked out last week when PB mentioned her first birthday, which is March 25th - and I have been trying to take things one step at a time, but somewhere along the line I failed miserably. I think maybe it's just not in my nature... to so completely live in the now that I can NOT think about what might happen down the line.

In the end I guess it doesn't matter why I have the reaction. The real question is what the heck to do with it. That's what I'm working on now.

Survey says....

ding! Alleged dad is now officially biodad.

Visits start next Wednesday. For the first couple, they'll do them here (along with regularly scheduled urine tests) to make sure Dad is "committed to the caseplan", then they'll start transporting Lily about an hour each way to where Dad lives in a neighboring city. Because you know, we wouldn't want him to have to make that commute.