Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garden Goodness

Monday, July 27, 2009

How bio children are affected by fostering

Things my bio daughter learned about or terms she was exposed to as a result of us being foster parents. Things that I would rather she not have been exposed to until years later or never at all.
  • tounge rings
  • boyfriends
  • dating
  • running away from home
  • getting married before graduating high school
  • piercings in nose, cheek, lip among other places
  • drugs
  • the term birth parents
  • foster care
  • social workers
  • court
  • prison
  • sibling visits
  • homevisits
  • home inspections
  • finger prints, background checks, TB tests, etc

Things the bio daughter has gained from our being a foster/adoptive family.
  • compassion & empathy
  • sharing with others
  • helping others
  • generosity
  • friendships
  • appreciation
  • learning to get along with others
  • exposure to a wide range of personalities

What have your kids learned? How have they been impacted by your decision to foster/adopt?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Movie Night

Movies watched somewhat recently, okay since the beginning of the year.

Hotel for Dogs (the kids are in foster care - get Resource Hours for watching!)

Wall-E - kids had a hard time staying interested in this movie, better for older kids and adults. If you like the environmental, overpopulation, we're going to become stupid lazy ass people warning message from Wall E, then you might also enjoy Idiocracy.

Bolt - stage parents, child actors, and funny animal antics followed by a predictable Happily Ever After ending. Warning: the beginning tends to scare younger kids until they realize, or if they realize, that it was the making of a movie within the actual movie Bolt.

Bedtime Stories - if you've watched one Adam Sandler movie, you've seen them all. Same ole, same ole.

Bride Wars - not my favorite movie but i'll let some other feminist pick it apart.

Freaky Friday - mom and teen trade places and are finally able to understand one another.

Inkheart - watched it with the kids. Cute movie but had to keep reminding the 5 year old that it was not real. The characters come to life as they are read out of the book.

Seven Pounds - very, very emotional movie. I would watch it again just to catch all the things that I didn't get that was going on during the first viewing, but my eyes can't take anymore crying. Powerful performance and brilliant storyline.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to start a support group for foster and adoptive parents

I recently watched a video lecture by Pat Beckler titled How to Start a Support Group for Foster and Adoptive Parents and it cited information from a book titled An Introduction to Group Work Practice. The following are my notes from the video.

Who are leaders and how they work
  • Co-Leadership ex. Foster Parent & Social Worker
  • Worker as Consultant
  • Self Help Group w/ a member as a leader
Co Leadership Rules
1)support 2)feedback and growth 3)increased perspectives 4)training model 5)modeling 6) assistance in activities 7) provide structure 8)processing

Potential Issues of CoLeadership
1) conflict 2)inconsistency 3)playing off one another

Attributes of Good Group Leaders
Empathy, Genuineness, Mutual Aid Process, Permission Giving, Problem Solver, Focused (can keep meeting on target), Networking
(i dont' think our meetings ever stay on target. there seems to always been someone with their knickers in a bunch wanting to do nothing but complain without offering suggestions for change. and then there is the person who breaks his/her arm patting him/herself on the back at every single meeting.)

Group Cohesion
members in group work together / link the members to each other

Group Work
purposeful directives, social emotional needs, accomplish task

Treatment Group versus Task Group
educational growth v/s accomplish mandate
behavior changes v/s complete work
socialization v/s

Treatment Group Types
  1. Education - learn
  2. Growth - discuss and grow
  3. Remediation - changing behavior, problem solving
  4. Socialization - activities like picnic or gym exercises
Task Group Types
  1. Committee - getting something accomplished
  2. Administrative - input to agency to maintain or bring change
  3. Delegate Councils - represent other groups
  4. Teams - mutually developed for benefit for client
  5. Treatment - case plan for client system
  6. Social Action - look at social change, change legislative policy
Treatment Group
1) role open 2) open communication 3) phases 4)self disclosure 5) confidentiality 6) evaluation (how well maintained own goals)

Task Group
1) very defined roles 2)communication on getting task done 3) formal agenda 5) no focus on self disclosure 5)nature of confidentiality 6)evaluation (how well accomplished taks)

Goal Setting
Group Centered Goals - functioning of groups
Agency Worker - what does agency want from us
Individual - what does each member want from group
(our group is mostly for obtainin training and for socialization. agency workers attend the training as well as answer any questions we may have for them.)

Assessing Sponsorship
Administration, Financial Support, Referrals, Facilities, Staff

Needs Assessment / Assessing Membership
take a sample of people, collect data by doing interviews to find out what they want/need, analyze results to figure out what type of group works best

  • Contact - direct contact with letter or phone call, word of mouth, list from agency, advertisement in paper
  • Needs - childcare for meetings, transportation, time of meetings, refreshments, handicap needs, interpreter services
  • Financial Support - speaker fees, donated supplies, fundraising, grants, sponsors
(Everyone who goes through GPS classes gets information on our group, then we have a list of foster parents from the agency that we send a monthly newsletter to with reminders of the meetings. The Secretary does the newsletters but all officers and agency personell contribute info for the newsletter. We hire agency family support workers to do childcare at our monthly meetings. Meetings are always on the same day and time of each month, for example the 2nd Tuesday or the 3rd Monday or the 4th Friday and are always at the same location and at the same time. We use a local church because its free and this is the south. The Vice President of the association is in charge of refreshments and s/he orders about 20 pizzas and brings about 6 to 8 sodas for the adults and 3 or 4 gallons of juice for the kids in addition to plates, cups, and napkins. We only have free speakers and it is also the VP's job to recruit, remind, and thank said speakers. We have all kinds of fundraisers from yardsales and candy sales to picture fundraisers, auctions, and raffles. We are also a United Way funded group ... this required boatloads of paperwork. Often we get sponsors for things like a free daytrip for all foster kids to a water park or amusement park, or building shelves for our resource center. Sponsors like to have a concrete thing they are paying for, not just give money towards future supplies for meetings, etc. The President goes out seeking sponsors and donations. The Treasure keeps up with all things money.)

Ways to set up the groups OR Ways of dividing members within the group

  • commonality of characteristics ex. all have teenagers, all who are waiting for 1st child
  • commonality of concerns
  • diversity of characteristics ex. older foster parents with new foster parents, parents with teens with parents with babies
  • diversity of perspectives
When composing the group structure consider:
leadership skills, compatibility, ability to give and receive feedback, variety
(we hold elections every two years and whoever volunteers or is nominated gets to run for office regardless of skill set - this is not recommended, btw)

Size of Group
ideal group size 6 to 8 people allows for ability to accomplish task, satisfying experience, and opportunity to participate and interact
(we have a large group that consist of any foster and adoptive parents in the county who wish to attend - not all attend every meeting, usually about 20 or 30)

Break Up Large Groups
assign task or topic, break into smaller groups, ask for recorder, have small groups report back with presentation
(we tend to break into smaller groups, okay cliques, during refreshment time and gossip talk)

New Members Orientation

Screening Members - ensure match (pesons goals math purpose of group), collect data, examine barriers (what keeps you from coming to the group), address individuals fears such as talking in front of large group of people

Preparation of Environment
room size - comfort - access - arrangement

First Meeting
  • Introduction - name, stage in foster parenting, number of kids, etc
  • Define Purpose - establish confidentiality, state purpose of meeting "What I hope you learn from this is ..."
  • Balance Process and Content -
  • Feedback - ask for goals, input, feedback, setting future agenda
  • Set Agenda - whats up for next meeting
Purpose of Group Orientation
how to have input to setting routine of a group and/or agenda
structure time of group w/ clear beginning, middle, end
allow time for evaluation - ways presented, extent to which goals met, suggestions

For more foster care related resources go to the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning website and watch the podcasts of teleconferences and download the hand outs.

Drive Inn Fun


drive inn movie
$10 car load
free bag of popcorn, HUGE bag
double feature - two movies for price of one
kids loved it - great experience

Friday, July 17, 2009

Independent Living Program

The Independent Living Program (ILP) is for all foster teens age 14 and over. The program is designed to help teach lifeskills that teenagers will need for their transition to adulthood. Each state has their own way of running the program so yours may vary.

The teen has to take a quiz or Life Skills Assessment that asks things like "What is a necessity?" and will list "A) friends B) deodorant C) water D) all of the above" The purpose is to help the worker (and foster parent if you are lucky enough to see a copy) identify where the teen currently is, in regards to life skills knowledge, and which areas they need the most work. I had a teen pick letter B for deodorant. She didn't want to go through life stinking, although it would have been a short life without food and water.

There is a monetary reward for good grades in school, something like $10 for every A and $5 for every B (WAY more than I got - my parents did $2 per A, $1 per B, nothing for Cs, subtract $1 for each D, and subtract $2 for each F). And for doing household chores such as laundry and cooking, they get an allowance of up to $40 per month. The ILP sends a check directly to the teen so that s/he can learn how to manage money. The idea is that they will open a bank account and get experience in cashing checks, making a budget, and balancing a checkbook. The chores are to teach life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

The ILP also provides funds for extracurricular activities. Typically it only pays for one activity at a time, but multiple activities can be approved. For example, a teen who wanted to take gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons can have them all completely paid for through ILP funds. The funds also pay for senior stuff like pictures, cap & gown, school fees, class ring, prom outfit, yearbook, etc.

They get money for college too. Some states have Educational and Training Vouchers (ETV). This pays tuition, books, and room & board up to $5,000.00 per year. Some states also throw in a laptop. Then the foster teen can apply for a grant and use that money for other needs like car payment & insurance, gas, clothes, etc. Even if they leave foster care, so long as they were in care on their 16th or 17th birthday can't remember which, they still qualify for this assistance.

If the foster teen chooses to forgo college, or just decides to live off-campus, then the ILP gives a one time payment of $500 to help pay apartment and utility deposits (again, this varies by state/agency).

While the ILP doesn't make up for not being able to to be properly cared for by bio family, it does have the purpose of helping teens learn to live independently. We have offered to adopt each of our foster teens and they have all declined. They didn't want to loose their bio parents, which I completely understand. So instead we have let them all know that we are always here for them if they need anything. For birthday and other holiday presents, we have given the teens items for their household such as dishes, linens, some furniture, toiletries, and cleaning supplies like a vacuum cleaner. One of our house rules is that all teens must earn the right to drive by making good grades, staying out of trouble, and taking safety courses through school and the insurance company. Then we encourage the teen to work a part time job, especially during the summer, because upon high school graduation we match the funds they have saved to purchase a vehicle for the teen. If they only save $20 then they won't get much of a car but if they save $2000 we match it with $2000 and they get a $4000.00 vehicle. Or if they save $4000 we match it with $4000 and they get an $8000.00 vehicle. The goal is to teach them all the life skills we can while they reside in our home, then gift them with basic items they will need to set up a home of their own, and finally help them obtain reliable transportation for getting to college and/or work after leaving our home. You know, to successfully live independently.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Seeking Orphanage for Cloth Diaper Donation

Have dozens of cloth diapers and want to donate to legit orphanage in need.

I would like to donate all of our cloth diapers to an orphanage in need, overseas or not, but don't know of a specific place. Do you? Through reading blogs I found an orphanage for older kids that seems legit, but haven't read about one for younger kids. These are both regular cloth diapers with plastic pants and All-In-One Diapers like Little Caboose, Kushies, and Bumkins. They are all used of course, but clean and sitting in storage. If you know of an orphanage, please let me know. TIA

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Conversations with Spoiled Teenagers

One of The Cheerleader's Boyfriends
Me: Where are y'all going for vacation next week?
Him: US Virgin Islands.
Me: Sounds fun.
Him: I don't want to go. My parents are making me.
Me: Must be torture.

The Cheerleader's Best Friend
Me: Are you looking forward to your family's upcoming beach trip?
Her: Not really. We go every year.
Me: Oh, why is that?
Her: Dad gets paid to go.
Me: Sounds like a good deal.
Her: It's so retarded.
Me: Do you mean that you don't like it?
Her: We have to sit, like, right up against each other ALL THE WAY THERE.
Me: Don't y'all take the Hummer?
Her: Yeah.
Me: Don't y'all stop half way and stay overnight since your dad is the only one willing to drive?
Her: *laughs* It's so gay.
Me: Must be torture.

The Cheerleader
Me: Wanna go swimming with us?
Her: No.
Me: Why not?
Her: I only go swimming in large in-ground pools.
Me: Oh, then you can load the dishwasher and do your laundry while we swim.
Her: I don't need to do my laundry. I'll take it to BestFriend's house and her mom will wash my clothes.
Me: Not if you want your ILP allowance check.
Her: My Nanny will do my laundry when I move there.
Me: I know, it's torture living here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Sisterhood Grows

They had searched and wondered, looking for a sign. And all along they'd had their trees. You couldn't wear them. You couldn't pass them around. They offered no fashion advantage. But they had roots. They lived.

I recently read 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares, the same author of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I watched the movie but didn't read the books, so didn't really know what the author's writing style was or is. Whatever. Anyway the story is cutesy and is exactly the thing I loved to read as a teenager (and maybe still do as an adult although I would never actually admit to that Ahem). I'm a big fan of cover art and that is what drew me to this book. Love the artistic interpretation of a willow. It's all upward reaching and optimistic with limbs forming hearts when in reality willows are more sad and creepy and eerily beautiful.

The bark of the willow contains salicylic acid, the source of aspirin, and has relieved fever and suffering for thousands of years. It also gets rid of warts.

The characters go to the same school as the Traveling Pants Sisterhood and first tried passing around a scarf but ended up via school project with baby willow trees. They elected to plant them down a hill and then proceeded to visit and feed, water, and play violin for their saplings. Life goes on and the girls each have their own experiences the summer before freshman year of high school ultimately coming back together as friends and revisiting their now grown willow trees. I admit to crying near the end.

It is said that the sound of wind through willow trees is the whispering of fairies into the poet's ear. It is also said that the willow can uproot itself, stalk travelers, and mutter at them.

When I was very young, I think my sister was just barely a year old if that, I ran into our parents room because the weeping willow tree outside my bedroom window was uprooted and walking towards our home. It was clearly angry and intent on harming me. I remember this vividly and still to this day don't care for any tree that weeps. I was no doubt high as a kite or tripping on something. My parents claim all they gave me was beer, as always, to get me to sleep, but we inhaled pot smoke all the time. Like they wouldn't admit to dropping some acid in my beer bottle or sippy cup as it may be.

It is believed that a willow branch in your house will protect you from evil and sorcery.

My luck is that the branch would haunt me in the middle of the night because it was pissed off that I cut it's arm.

No matter how far back you cut a willow tree, it will never really die.

Kindle DX: Amazon's 9.7" Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Fireworks

More wordless here, here, and especially here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Homevisit #17 for BabyBoy

Another day, another dollar* ... umm, homevist. Yes, we did just have one eight days ago. Why do you ask? A lot can change in 8 days. Really! BabyBoy could have grown a third eye. I could have dropped my basket and ran for the hills. Or something.

This time they came together and arrived early. The power of two coupled with a surprise attack. Twice the fun! The Cheerleader's worker may be changing as they are no longer getting along (more on that later). BabyBoy's worker has decided that she just might like me afterall. Or maybe not, but at least she is now allowing me to take the children out of state. Beach, here we come!

Three weeks and counting and they still haven't contacted The Husband. I still haven't received my copy of the ISP paperwork. I've also not received a call about any other children although reportedly there have been lots of pickups lately. Bella** has been back with her birth family for what, a month, and I still haven't received the placement money*** for her despite repeated assurances from the worker that she sent the info to the foster association treasurer. The foster association treasurer and president have not returned my emails or calls. I am the VP ... or I was ... am I still? Who knows.

This was Homevisit #2 for The Cheerleader. Her worker says the grandma said that The Cheerleader is better off in foster care. The grandma says the worker said that The Cheerleader is better off in foster care. The Cheerleader believes the grandma. The Cheerleader is very, very angry at her worker. The grandma changes her mind from day to day on whether or not she will allow The Cheerleader to come live with her. One day she says yes, that she will clean a room, pay for insurance, etc. The next she says she can't let The Cheerleader come live there because her husband doesn't want her there and he might leave her. The next day she claims she will call CPS and let them know of her interest. The next day she has decided perhaps it's best for The Cheerleader to go live with another family member. They promise her a car and don't deliver. They promise her to call CPS and don't do it. They promise her that they will take care of her, and then don't follow through. She lived with them for a short period before and they would tell The Cheerleader that everything was fine but yet call CPS out and ask them to take her away. The Cheerleader still does not believe her grandparents called CPS. The other grandparents can't get a medical clearance. The uncle wasn't willing to let her come there to live full time, only for a short week or two stay. The cousins that had her for the year prior to her entering care are all up in our business trying to control shit, yet they are the ones who gave up on her and returned her to CPS. Their reason? Because she got drunk at a party after prom and they weren't ready for teenager behavior. They have a bio preteen that I bet they don't return to CPS. So many people in her life, none of them willing to parent. Sad.

The Cheerleader has been texting her worker asking if she can do this or that, without my knowledge, but the worker calls to let me know so that I am in the loop. I am thankful because I've had a teen in the past that triangulated and her worker was a naive participant.

The Cheerleader has only known her friend since Jan of this year, yet she calls her friend's mom, "mom". She talks about how her mom has plans for them to do this, to do that, to go here, to go there, to shop for school clothes, to go to this college, etc. It bothers me more than it should. At first I recognized it as The Cheerleader wanting the money and material objects of her friend, and possibly the normalcy of a stable family, but now I am taking it a little personal****. Her friend's mom isn't willing to do what is necessary to get The Cheerleader to come live with them, yet The Cheerleader wants to be there. She seems to ignore the fact that they aren't willing to care for her. I am caring for her. Damnit.

Just today she started talking about how she wants to be like her mom and drink and marry money and do nothing but shop all the time. This is her aspiration. Nevermind her mom is an addict and steals and her boyfriend/husband is in and out of jail for dealing drugs and she doesn't have custody of any of her children which all have different baby daddys. What is the lure?

It's not personal. I know that. It's. not. personal.

*this is sarcasm
**Bella is NOT her real name, and you would know that if you bothered to read my blog past the title
***$100 given by the foster association, which is NOT funded by CPS or the state
****If you notice, I'm talking about her friend's mom, not The Cheerleaders mom. I'm taking it personally that she calls her friend's mother "mom". The cheerleader's mom is back in rehab. She got fired from the bar for theft. Also, she says she doesn't want The Cheerleader. The Cheerleader's dad is in prison. The cousin's dropped her off at CPS and said they didn't want her. The Uncle only wanted her for a week. The grandparents are her last hope ... and I'm rooting for them ... they just seem to be wishy washy.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Feliz Cumpleanos

The Cheerleader made this for me. She took 4 packs of brownie mix and substituted toothpick umbrellas for candles. Very sweet.

Our weekend was filled with fireworks, camping, boating, swimming, lots of food and presents!