A mom who likes to live outside the norm

Archive for the tag “fostering”

What’s the right thing to do?

So, I’ve been reading more about vaccines, and doctors, and nutrition.  I’m still happy with the decisions I’ve made so far, and am considering more “crazy” ones.  The more out of the mainstream I go, the more I see to change.  But this has opened a whole new set of questions for me.

Mainly: Why am I bringing my healthy kids to the doctor?

But there’s a whole lot of questions and things to consider with this question.  First, if I’m not vaccinating, why am I risking my kids getting sick at the doctors office just to turn down vax and to see how big they’re getting?  I can weight and measure them myself to ensure they’re growing.  I’m already doing so much for them by providing good nutrition…

Also, by not bringing my healthy kids to the doctor, I’m giving the office more time with kids who need it.

Why not bring my healthy kids to the doctor?  “Well-care” visits are free!  But then, isn’t that part of what’s driving up the cost of healthcare?  Labeling well-care as free, when the main purpose is to monitor what parents are doing and vaccinating kids?  And of course, it’s not free.  Taxpayers are paying for it.  I’m paying for it with my premiums…

Then the foster parent in me comes out, and I realize that especially for kids who aren’t in school, well care visits are often when abuse and neglect is noticed.  But, in all honesty, people like me who are stirring the pot by not vaccinating their kids are more at risk for getting Children’s Services called on them for neglect than the parent who is abusing their child or not feeding them properly.

Then alternative parent in me comes out and I realize that doctors are so busy, they barely have the time to come in and check the majors than to notice malnutrition or abuse.  Heck, the neglecters and abusers are the ones not bringing their kids to the doctor in the first place (along with crazy alternative parents that is).

There are so many kids who instead of a proper diagnosis and treatment are prescribed a myriad of psychotropic drugs and other meds.  Sadly, some of my foster kids will be and I’ll have no say in the matter…

Parents, trusting their doctor, don’t know that they can treat these things through proper nutrition, elimination of triggers, and exercise.  Or in extreme cases, find out what is really to blame and eliminate it.

And I’m not trying to shrink illness or disease. I have a family history of mental illness, but I’d rather find out what is really going on and try out nutrition and eliminating triggers than have my kids on a medication cocktail.  And I’ve dealt with depression for most of my adult life, but over the last year and a half when I’ve cut out all the medications, processed foods, and as many of the triggers as I find, I’ve had no instances of “the blues”, even in the postpartum period when I experienced it in the past.

But back on topic.  As a person who was home schooled as a child and plan on homeschooling my children into the future, there’s another problem.  Most homeschooling families are honestly doing the best they can for their kids, providing them with a great and personalized education.  But I know through the experience of friends that there are many kids that are in a cycle of neglect and abuse.  While those friends think there should be much more regulation on homeschooling families (which I honestly think will regulate some great parents out of HSing and scare off even more), they bring up a valid point of requiring annual visits to the doctor as part of their oversight.

While part of me on the inside screams “this is just more useless government regulation!”, part of me agrees that this is protecting kids that can’t speak up for themselves.  My friend as a teenager almost died from neglect because her mother wouldn’t bring her to the doctor because she didn’t want to be forced into vaccination and thought the whole medical establishment was corrupt.  Do I have the potential to turn into that?  I sure hope not.  So while part of me is seriously thinking about not bringing my kids to the doctor unless they are actually sick and natural remedies aren’t working, the other part of me realizes that my sinful human nature can take over.

So what’s the right thing to do?  In a time of insanely rising healthcare costs and doctors not having the time to consult with parents and discuss options and alternative care, skipping “well” visits and researching on my own seems like a great idea.

But then I think about the bad side, and how it could seem like I’m trying to hide something.  Or there might be a parent who has no idea what they’re doing, and take my advice either under the assumption that they’ve done due diligence.  And then the parents that simply don’t care for their children properly.  And the abuser and neglecters.   There are kids that suffer.

But when is oversight too much?  When is enough enough?  Abusers will abuse, and those who neglect will continue.  Is it worth it for good parents to jump through more hoops to prove they’re doing the best for their kids to catch a few more bad parents?  Or will good parents be hurt because those overseeing don’t agree with them and take away perfectly healthy and loved kids and scar them by taking them away?

It’s a topic very close to my heart and it just gives me more questions instead of giving me any answers.

For more reading on nutrition, health, and the medical establishment, a good read is: Why do Pediatricians Deny the Obvious?.

My “favorite” part of foster parenting…

…is skipping a decade in parenting skills.  My oldest birth child is 6, my oldest foster child is 16!  Thankfully she’s respectful, responsible and very sweet.  If I had gone through what she has I would be angry, bitter, and untrusting.

But to go back a bit.  This weekend we had one of our former placements, a sweet special needs 15 year old stay with us for the weekend.  He’s been reunited with his grandparents, but it worked out well with his spring break to let them get a bit of a break and him to come stay with us.  He was our very first placement.  We got the call to ask if he could stay with us 2 weeks after we found out we were expecting #3.  I thought, “Oh my goodness, I’ll be the parent of a teenager, at 29!”.

In his case, yes I was the parent of a physical 15 year old, but in most ways (except hormonally), he’s between the age of 8-12.  He was a wonderful fit with our family.  His favorite toys to play with are the same as my son’s.  He loves video games, action figures and Veggie Tales.  He bonded well with the whole, extended family.  Even though with his special needs there were extra challenges, we were really thinking about pursuing permanent guardianship.

And in the four months he lived with us, he went from performing at a K-1st grade level at school to a 2nd-3rd grade level in some subjects.  I think it was a combination of a safe and structured environment, help and encouragement at home, and wonderful teachers.  We also helped him learn to interact more, answer questions and learn responsibility.

It was with a mixture of sadness and joy on our whole family that he left our home to stay with his grandparents.  There were many concerns we had as far as his needs and development that seem to be coming true, but at least he’s with family.  That’s one of the hardest parts of foster parenting.  The goal is reuniting with the family, but sometimes these kids could do so much better elsewhere.  Thankfully in his case, his grandparents live close to our church and we get to see him on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.  We also get to eat lunch with him and his grandparents almost every Sunday.  We’re hoping that one day soon they may actually stay for church with us too.  We’re settling into a role more like an Aunt and Uncle with him, seeing him regularly, talking to grandma on the phone, visiting each other, and him getting to occasionally spend the night (like this weekend).

But enter a “real” teenager.  Though sadly, like many of the kids in the system, she’s not a “real” teenager either.  She’s very intelligent and responsible, so that’s not the issue.  Basically, her history and all of the things that come along with it has robbed her of childhood.  I’m just so glad that even with a 6 and 4 year old with another on the way in a few weeks, we’re able to provide her with a safe place.  Poor thing, she has to share a room with my 4 year old, but thankfully my daughter is pretty good at giving her privacy and we have a great play room, so my daughter really only sleeps in there.  And my wonderful children are so giving, that they don’t feel a loss of their room or hold a grudge, they’re just so happy that someone else is able to stay with us!  (This is honestly the main reason we decided to start fostering while our children are young, so that it’s normal to give of what we have and to focus on someone else).

The hard part for me is figuring out what role to take in this case.  I’ve told her that I in no way intend to step in and replace her mom.  I envision myself more of an aunt, a friend and an authority figure, and this is how I explained it to her.  And after 4 weeks, we’re finally settling in to a routine.  She’s bringing me her completed homework, we’re starting to add some responsibility around the house, and she’s even babysat for us so that my DH and I could get a night out!  And as I said before, she’s very quiet and responsible so I haven’t had to lay down hard rules or consequences, but I’m kind of worried about the day when she feels comfortable enough to truly turn on the teenager and we have a real confrontation or I have to lay down some major boundaries.

And overall, I’m just thankful that we go to a wonderful church with a great youth group.  The kids there have really been open and welcoming, and she’s part of the group.  And I have many resources between the youth pastor, other parents at our church, and our parents (especially my in-laws, they have 14 and 15 year old adopted sons).  I’m hoping that if there is any major parent/teen confrontation, I can quickly find out the best course of action.

Thankfully, parenting is parenting no matter what the age…it’s just a lot harder to step in after 16  (or 6) years.  So much of it is reading and knowing your kids, so that is really the hardest part of the whole fostering world.

Even with the crazy jumps of a 15yo special needs kid, to a premie baby on oxygen, to a 6yo boy who was way too much for me to handle while pregnant with young ones of my own, to now a fully fledged teenager, I can see God’s hand in each placement.  (Granted, the only thing I can see with the 6yo at this stage is “use wisdom and discernment when deciding on taking a placement!”)  These are all wonderful kids who’ve been through some horrible things.  And even though we’re basically flat broke, we’re able to make it work and be a blessing to kids who could be in group homes or being bounced around if we weren’t there.  And these kids have been a blessing to me too, despite the extra laundry, cooking, trips and visits.  I’m looking forward to the day when one of these kids not only clicks with our family as most have done so far, but is also open for us to be able to make a permanent member of our family.  I’m really wanting to order my “Proud to be a foster and adoptive family” bumper sticker…

Fostering is rough

And that can be said with no doubts.  There’s the difficulties dealing with behaviors learned in their previous environments, sadness in hearing their stories, challenges with settling in, interaction with their families and just the addition of a new person to your home.  And of course the sadness and grief that accompanies the loss of a member of your household when they go home or to a new placement.  Even with all that, days like yesterday make it so worth it.

The second placement we had in our home was a baby girl that was born 4 months early, drug addicted and the doctors were sure she wouldn’t make it.  Every day she survived was a miracle.  Sadly, mom wouldn’t make the changes necessary to clean up her life and be safe for this poor baby she endangered by her dangerous behaviors, and the Children’s Division had to step in and take custody.  I feel sad for the other people involved like her grandmother who now has no rights in the care of her granddaughter, but sadly she has unsafe behaviors that she wouldn’t change that kept her from getting custody (and that is another long story).

We got the call on this little girl when she was 4 1/2 months old, and I was 3 months pregnant.  We went to see her at the hospital, and it was heartbreaking to hear the story that no one should go through, and see her hooked up to tubes and monitors.  I visited her almost daily for 2 weeks before I was able to take her home with us.  The doctors were so worried because they had repeatedly tried to lower her oxygen levels and decrease medications, but none of it was successful.  But they knew she would improve in a loving home environment.

So home she came with us a day after she turned 5 months, when in reality this little 7 lb miracle should have just turned 1 month old.  Along came the tube through her nose attached to an oxygen tank, and a heart and apnea monitor that was to be used 24/7.  The first few nights were terrifying when the monitor would go off because she had stopped breathing and we had to startle her awake so she would start breathing again.  The weeks of carting a tank and monitor everywhere we went, even around the house.  The worry about tripping over cords, medication to ensure she took every day, that we weren’t doing things right.  The twice weekly nurse visits to our home, the physical therapy appointments, the almost weekly trips to different doctors.

But within a week she was already doing better.  For the first time in her life she had a consistent caregiver.  She was being held regularly.  She was eating more than 2 ounces per feeding without falling asleep, and she was growing!  Her home health nurse was so helpful in giving me tips and encouraging me, and it was paying off!

Within 2-3 weeks, her nurse and I started lowering her oxygen levels.  By 6 weeks, we were convinced that she no longer needed the oxygen or medications…what was hard was getting a doctor to take the time to agree!  Each one wanted one of the other doctors to make the decision, how frustrating!  But finally, after a little over 2 months with us, a doctor finally said “she should have been off this stuff weeks ago!”, and signed the orders, and after a week with the monitor to ensure that all was well, Baby E was free of everything and got to be a normal baby.

She was still way behind even her gestational age, but she was growing, and learning by leaps and bounds now that she wasn’t hindered by tubes and cords!  And we were fully prepared and hoping and praying that we would be able to keep her forever (even though we were at the end of my second trimester).

It was a sad day, when I learned just before Christmas that a 3rd cousin (yes, they had to go that far out!), was not only safe for E to be with, but decided that she could give E what she needed and was willing.  We had 2 more weeks with her, and it was wonderful and sad at the same time.  I was trying hard to protect myself emotionally while also preparing her for a different caregiver.  A time when I wanted to never put her down was when I was having to work the hardest on her learning to be happy with others holding her, feeding her, playing with her.   I needed to teach her she could be happy playing independently.

And not for me to start crying as I type this.  The hardest day ever was the 5th of January when a day early and without meeting her new family, she left my home.  I cried so much those few days, and even harder because I didn’t know where she was!  But I wrote her a letter telling her how much I loved her, and I did everything I could to prepare her new family for this special baby.

And wonderfully, her new “mommy” called me the next day.  She had read my letter and cried, and promised me she would do everything in her power to keep E forever, that she would share my letter with her, and that E would know she had a family and a mommy when she was little that loved her so much.  She sent me pictures and called occasionally.

And the best part (and really hard too) was yesterday.  As her former foster placement, I am a member of her team that is involved with plans for her and gets updates.  I got to go to a meeting, and got to hold her for an hour!   When I was first given her, she looked at me, and I could tell she was so confused.  There was some recognition and the start of a smile, but then a pout and the start of tears as you could tell this was hard for her too.  I started crying a bit (and so were one or two of the ladies around me), as we were both struggling with emotions (and me hormones!).  But it was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  She has grown 2 pounds in the month I haven’t seen her.  She is so much stronger, and she looks so alert, aware, GROWN UP!  She got her ears pierced.

She took a little nap while i was holding her, and I got to feed her during the meeting.  The hardest part was learning that since her mom not only has made no changes to her lifestyle and has abandoned her daughter, the courts are moving forward with terminating her parental rights, and she will be open for adoption by her cousin.  How I wish it could be me.  But I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of her life, to help her learn to bond and heal, and that she is in a loving relationship with a family that is and will take care of her needs and do everything they can to shelter her from her hurtful past.

While I emotionally hurt, I wouldn’t trade anything for being a part of her life. I so wish she was a permanent part of my family, but she was and is a part of my family.  And I’ll do it again, and I hope more people will become willing to do what I do by me sharing my story with her.

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