Thursday, December 1, 2016

Congratulations! Supervised Observation

Congratulations! You can now begin your supervised observation! 

I caught my breath when I saw this first sentence of an email this afternoon. Commuter Husband and I can now start our 40 hours of required observation to be foster care certified in the State of Texas. We have two choices:
  • We can spend time at the Jonathan's Place shelter.
  • We can coordinate visiting an active home. We have been provided a list of 11 families that we can contact.
The last sentence of the email says: "I hope you enjoy your time with the children and that this process helps you in your understanding of them and their needs!"

It just got real, really real. I am energized and nervous and ready.

LEARN MORE ... Here is a 12 minute video "ReMoved"

Please find a few minutes to watch. Let me know your impressions ...
From the website:
"The ReMoved Films are being created with the intent to bring light to the often unknown subjects of Foster Care and Child Abuse/Neglect. The films educate those who are learning, while simultaneously identifying with those who understand all too well. The films are available online to watch for free. We do this because even though the cost of creating a film is high, we believe these films can have the most impact when they're most easily accessible. 

Our goal is that these films would serve as a key tool in raising up and training good foster parents, social workers, court-appointed special advocates, and the many other adults who interact with children in foster care. To that end, we encourage foster care related agencies and organizations to use the film in their training, outreach, and fundraising endeavors."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

TB and Drug Tests

Youngest Son and Oldest Son filling out paperwork for drug screen and TB test. We have boys fill out ALL their own paperwork for everything (school, sports, doctor, etc.) as we moved further down the path to independence. It is surprising "what they do not know how to do" when we started this practice. 
For example, "You need to memorize your SSN" says me to Youngest Son. His response "Why?"

Our Foster Certification is moving forward inch by inch. Yesterday we made another family outing. Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I located the only CareNow location in Dallas that provides drug screening and TB tests for Jonathan's Place.

Each test was $55 for a total of $220 for our family of four. Each family member over the age of fourteen must be tested. We are fortunate to be able to afford these costs but I do think this is another financial consideration that could be challenging for potential foster care families.
Youngest Son delivers urine specimen to technician and electronically signs necessary form.
My TB poke. We cannot cover with band aid and cannot itch. We must go back within 48 to 72 hours to have it read. Commuter Husband will have to do it in Houston.

Here is where we are in the Foster Care process:
  • July to Sep: 42 hours of in person training completed by Commuter Husband and me
  • Oct: Our four family members completed background checks including fingerprinting
  • Nov: Our four family members completing drug screens and TB testing
Next steps and hopeful timing:
  • Nov to Dec: Commuter Husband and I to complete remaining independent training (online and reading.)
  • Dec to Jan: Commuter Husband and I to complete 40 hours of observation in foster homes or shelters.
  • Jan to Feb: Home Study completed including several updates we will need to make our home compliant.

LEARN MORE ... Is this how we want the State of Texas and Texans to care for these children?

1) Outrage is not enough.
In early November, special masters hired to scrutinize the system made over 50 recommendations. They include reducing caseloads, adding training and mentor programs, and giving new caseworkers more ramp-up time. Last week, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief that objected to every recommendation.

2) The State of Texas says "We really need you to step up," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told participants in the Faith Leader Summit at the Texas Capitol.

3) In December 2015, Federal Judge finds Texas has "broken" foster care system
Long-term foster care in Texas is “broken” and routinely does grave harm to children already dealt a tough hand, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi said the state violated the Constitution by keeping about 12,000 youngsters for years in an underfunded and poorly run system “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.”

Friday, October 28, 2016

My Finite Heart

I have been to three funerals in three weeks. Each of these precious souls lived full lives and left a beautiful legacy of family. Truly, these memorial events were celebrations of their earthly life.

So I have been thinking about losing our loved ones.

It has been two years since we lost my grandmother and my sister-in-law. I think of them both several times a week. I like to think of their laugh. Each one had a distinctive and infectious laugh. I also think about things I could have done differently. They were human in their imperfectness ... just as I am.

I have this vision of my finite heart. When these people, that are a part of who I am, dies then they take a piece of my heart with them and I am with them for eternity. I can never replace that missing piece and I know it is not there.

And I wonder, how many heart pieces can I lose before there is more missing than present?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Family Finger Prints Oh My

Finger prints on a Fall day ... 
Saturday we had a family outing. Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I went for background checks as a requirement of foster care licensing. Anyone age 14 and older in the household must have a background check including finger prints.

The Process
In August, we turned in all the information on the four of us to set up the background check process. In September, Jonathan's Place submitted our information to IndentoGo and we received four notifications via email for each member of the family. We then set up our appointments online. Fortunately, the Carrollton location had Saturday appointment times. The IndentoGo was hidden in the Sylvan Learning Center so took us a bit of sleuthing to locate.  Every member of the family now has a full set of finger prints and both thumbs in "the system." It took 40 minutes and we paid about $150 to accomplish this particular step of the foster care process. There are several expenses to becoming foster care licensed which I find to be unfortunate as it could be a financial hardship for many people wishing to be foster parents.

Afterward we shared a fun lunch at Eggsellent Cafe. Food is always a big winner with teen boys and this was a new restaurant for us. Husband and I used this as an opportunity to update the boys on where we are in the foster care process and provide a chance for questions. Oldest Son and Youngest Son were both pretty nonchalant about the concept. While Husband and I are going through hours and hours of training, there is absolutely none for biological children in the prospective foster home. I anticipate we will proactively have the boys watch some videos and develop our own "preparation course" for them.
Next door to the background check location.
Family of Four. Eats.
One Reason ...
The decision to foster children is multi-layered for our family. One reason includes embarking on a life experience together as a family. How many families get to do background checks together? Ha! On a more serious note, we will learn together, grow together and change the world together. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are meant to love a child that needs their community to embrace them.

Learn More About Foster Care ...
Husband sent me an article the past week. The University of California, Irvine has released a sudy that overall foster kids faced two to three times higher risks of physical health issues such as asthma, obesity and hearing and vision problems. And they were five to seven times more likely to have behavioral issues or symptoms of depression or anxiety. While the study findings aren't surprising, they're important since they quantify the risks these children face. 
Read more here:
CLICK HERE FOR PUBLISHED STUDY: Mental and Physical Health of Children in Foster Care

Sunday, October 16, 2016

An Election Leads to New Places

Four months since last post so what have I been doing  ...

I am deeply troubled by the political landscape of this 2016 election year. I do not make voting decisions strictly along a party line or a specific candidate or a list of narrowly defined issues. My voting decisions blur into the grey areas that are defined based on the multitude of complicated factors each election year. This year's election was causing me great anxiety. I had to figure out how to reconcile the craziness in my head.

First I considered how can I personally impact change. Only stating my position along with the requisite talking, whining and blustering is not for me. Doing nothing is also NOT an option. This post will now take a dramatic turn that seems unrelated but it is not ...

We are working our way towards becoming foster parents. When I say WORKING our way through then I am not exaggerating. The process from that first thought to actually having a child in our home is daunting.

To say Husband was surprised when I suggested this route is an understatement of ginormous proportions. It took us a month to agree to start and we have mutually agreed to consciously use each step to test movement forward. I first had to choose a non-profit agency to sponsor our certification. I did not realize it would not be with CPS and the State of Texas directly. I found Jonathan's Place fairly quickly and turns out Oldest Son donated his birthday presents there several years ago and we had toured it at the time. I took that as a sign!

Husband and I spent an entire weekend in July doing PRIDE training, August completing paperwork and homework and September completing the in-person training. In-person training includes:

July 2016
·       July                                Foster/Adopt Parent Orientation - 1 hour and PRIDE - Saturday and Sunday 9am-6pm, 9am-6pm

September 2016
·       September  10                Behavior Intervention Techniques 9am –5pm
·      September 17                 CPR/First Aid 9am – 12pm
·       September 17                 CAIPR Training – 12:30pm – 1:30pm
·       September 17                 Medication Administration (instructor led) 1:30pm –3:30pm
·       September 17                 JP Policies and Procedures/Introduction to KaleidaCare 3:30pm – 5:30pm
·       September 24                 Trauma Informed Care 9am-5 pm

In September, Commuter Husband shared with me that perhaps we MIGHT be able to pull this off and he was feeling more comfortable. So we kept moving on to the next step. This coming Saturday (October 22), we are scheduled to complete background checks including fingerprinting for all four members of our family.

We are approaching one task at a time hoping to complete certification requirements next February or so. We are seeking to provide foster care or respite care only - no adoption. For now, we are only considering an elementary age child with basic level needs.

Now back to those first two paragraphs ... to the part where I need to DO something to change the swirl of truly disturbing happenings worldwide that show up on my news feed every single depressing day. So, I choose the approximately 500,000 children in foster care who have suffered trauma. Read that number over and over and over and over ... and note it does not appear on any election platform.

Obviously this story has much more to say. This is only a beginning.