Tag Archives: foster parents

Free government cheese? SIGN ME UP!

Call me cray-cray, but one of the things I’ve been excited about in this whole fostering process is getting approved for WIC – the government program for women, infants, and children that gives you what the wise ones in power deem to be “powerful, nutritious foods”. It’s a great program, and I’m all about getting things fo free, so when we got our very loud and very hungry sibling group of three, and two of them are under 5 (age cut-off)….well, I couldn’t take it one bit longer. I had to apply!

Here’s my experience, in case anyone is as obsessed with WIC and government beans as I am. (I’m expecting approximately one person fits that bill and will read this post)

On Wednesday at 10am, I call the central WIC office to get an appointment. I’m on hold for an entire hour, but I will NOT be discouraged, and go about my business while waiting patiently. Someone answers and I stumble for the phone to get my appointment. I’m shocked when I get an appointment for the next day at 8:45am! But then the woman on the phone tells me something horrifying. I MUST BRING THE CHILDREN IN TO THE APPOINTMENT.

I’m sorry. Bring a 21-month old and 2 1/2 year old into a government office for what is likely to be hours? Is this worth it? Still, I will not be swayed, and I furrow my brow and clench my jaw to prepare for THE WAIT.

The next morning, I drop off Z at school and take T and B to the WIC office. We check in and wait about 45 minutes until we’re called into Room 9. The kids were terrific! They sat in the double stroller and ate non WIC-sanctioned Scooby Doo cereal with red dye 40 while I watched on loop the epic WIC movie about which foods are WIC-approved and which are contraband. 45 minutes is a long time when you’re in a stifling waiting room with two toddlers, so I pretty much memorized the entire thing.

When you take your WIC checks to the grocery store, pay attention to what is allowed and what is not allowed. Ask for store assistance if you have any questions.

With your checks, you will receive beans. You may purchase 16 ounces of dried beans, or up to four cans of any type of bean. Gourmet beans are NOT ALLOWED.

Just hold on one cotton-pickin minute. What the hell is a gourmet bean? I text Steph and she tells me I must clarify with the workers and ask them to re-make the movie. I sigh and continue to memorize the movie.

When purchasing WIC juice, you may get up to 64 ounces of APPROVED juice. If you purchase Juicy Juice brand, only Apple is covered. The rest are NOT ALLOWED.

WTF? Why is WIC all sketchy about juice-blends? It’s still 100% juice – just different ones, all mixed up in the same can. I’m truly perplexed over this one, but don’t text Steph about it because I’m tired of her shenanigans and impractical demands.

Finally, we are called back into room 9, which is perfect timing, because the children have just finished eating their red dye 40 and are starting to become monsters. The first room is where we get certified. I show the worker the children’s court-orders for placement in our home. We also weigh, measure and check the children’s blood level. Apparently if they’re anemic, we get Super-WIC. I don’t know that we’ll ever find out what that means, because both of their iron-levels are fine. This vegan momma is doing a-ok. T is pretty much a demon in the room because….well, they got their fingers pricked. Who wouldn’t be. I try to tell her about future child-birth and surgeries and things that will hurt way worse than getting her finger pricked, but she has the audacity to not care.

Once we leave room #9, we head to a second waiting room before seeing the WIC nutritionist. She asks me if I have any concerns or goals I’d like to work on before our next visit.

Well….T won’t touch vegetables with a ten foot pole. But what do you do?

She whips out a laminated chart. I am not joking. I wish I’d had the prescience to snap a pic, but all I could do was stare. It was a beautiful 1980’s chart of cute little faces and animals made out of veggies. Like funny faces and caterpillar kabobs that use 10 different raw vegetables to paint a scene.

Ummm….I have five children in the house.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be making a rainbow face from multi-colored peppers and cherry tomatoes that T won’t eat anyway. But thanks!

Next up, we went to another waiting room before being called to window 12 where we picked up our WIC checks. Hooray!!! This was the moment we’d been waiting for. I had to sign for each check we got, and we got a lot. They gave me three months worth for T and B.

The kids had deteriorated and were throwing their shoes and screaming at me and the worker, so at that point I gathered my checks, my kids and my will-power and walked out the door. OH! But not before asking if I had to bring the children back the next time I come. I don’t. 🙂

The next day, I had my daughter babysit the kids while I hauled my butt up to Publix to use the first round of checks. I only used half my checks because I’m a little unclear about what to do with 6 gallons of milk. I’ll use the second half next week.I used my trusty WIC pamphlet to help me navigate the complex world of WIC-sanctioned foods.

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Here’s a zoomed-in version of the milk section.

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When I went up to the register, I dutifully separated my WIC items from the rest of my purchase (wine, soy milk, gourmet beans) I told the cashier that I was a virgin WIC-er, and she gave me a small frown. I’ll tell you what, though. That frown turned upside down super-fast because I got an A+ in selecting the right foods! She told me I did better than most people. I was proud of my 100% accuracy rate!

I snapped a pic of my spoils below just because I am ridiculously proud. Remember – this is just half my loot for the month!!!

My loot:

* Six boxes of Cheerios (You get 36 ounces. Boxes are 12 ounces each and they were BOGO – Hollah!!!! )

* 1 pound of the proverbial government cheese

* 1 dozen (cheapest version from chicken) eggs. (Yes, they clarified that)

* 3 gallons and 1 quart whole milk.

* 2 loaves 100% whole wheat bread.

* 2 bunches of Chiquita Bananas.

* 1 gallon orange juice

and last but not least

*4 cans of NON-GOURMET beans.

Total savings this trip? $50!! It might have cost me $70 in babysitting and 3 hours of my life in order to get this, but WHATEVER! Free food!

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Can’t wait til my trip next week! I basically get all this stuff again, except I’m going to switch out and get some JJ apple and peanut butter instead of the beans. It’s ok, though, because I’m a fancy beans kind of gal. 🙂

PS. On a serious note, I am super appreciate of our government programs, and gladly pay my taxes to help those less-fortunate than our own family. I had WIC for my older children about 20 years ago, and am not at all ashamed to say that food stamps and welfare helped us survive during many hard years. To all the haters that think that people on food stamps are sitting on their couches eating bon-bons – you’re wrong. I am the face of welfare and WIC. And I most certainly didn’t sit around eating bon-bons. Gourmet beans? Maybe. But you can’t judge me for that.

 

 

 

 

Taking Exquisite Care…Foster Kid Update

Someone here in Jacksonville, FL  won the lottery many years back. As in literally won the big bucks. They live in the Riverside area – a beautiful sunlit historic district with homes dating back to the 1840’s. The neighborhood is gorgeous and quaint – tree-lined streets, tons of parks, locally-owned businesses, and charming and unique houses.

The house that the lottery-winners own, though, has honestly become an eyesore. Knick-knacks crowd the windowsills, and stuff spills out onto the yard. At some point, the owners got the house coated with a paint that should last the life of your house. Honestly, paint shouldn’t last forever. It looks weird and plasticky and I can’t help but shake my head every time we pass the house.

The paint – seeing as how it’s everlasting –  is still there, as bright and garish as ever. But under the paint, the wood is rotting. The window boxes are falling off the house, drooping depressively. The whole thing just looks sad – the utter excess of the clutter coupled with disrepair.

What the owners aren’t quite grasping is that you can’t just take care of something once and then leave it alone to rest on it’s laurels. You have to take constant and exquisite care of the things in your life – whether that’s a physical thing like a house, a car, your animals, your friends, your children, your partner…..anything in your life that’s worth having is worth taking exquisite care of.

That being said, I’m doing a shitty-ass job of heeding my own advice. Steph has forsaken me and left for an out-of-town work trip. This morning, I found myself trying to wrangle 5 children into the car for the morning deposit of the foster children at child care. FYI – when you have 5 screaming children, you forget to do things like STRAP THE CHILDREN INTO THEIR CAR SEATS.  That would be 2 that I somehow forgot. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t constitute taking exquisite care of my beings. I’m also pretty sure I might be an unfit foster parent, but for some reason they’re still letting me do this.

Right now, life is overwhelming with 3 foster kids in the house and 16 month old twins. Often, it’s complete pandemonium, with children screaming, kicking, flailing and generally proving the theory that when children are taken from everything they know and placed in another home with strangers (us) – all hell breaks loose.

In the spirit of not being able to take care of all my beings, I had to call uncle and tell the children’s caseworker, guardian ad litum and placement specialist that WE ARE IN OVER OUR HEADS. Even with all the help we’re getting (we have the best friends and family!!!), I feel like I’m running a child care for about 1 bazillion behaviorally disturbed toddlers. Don’t believe me? Count the shoes below. That’s a bazillion shoes!

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It’s just too much. I can’t take good care of all that I’m responsible for. Late last week, we had the big call where I told  7 people-in-authority that we couldn’t do it. It was awful. I felt judged. Like I was the annoying high maintenance foster parent who wouldn’t do her job and leave them alone.

It was embarrassing making that call, but it had to be done.

Because it’s mine and Steph’s  job to make sure that our family’s  life doesn’t end up looking like that god-awful house in Riverside. Spray-painted perfectly on the outside, but falling down on itself underneath the shiny. Ain’t happening. We care too much about this family to pretend that we are stronger than we are.

We’ll see what happens next with the foster kids….it’s still day by day. In the midst of the hard days, though, I feel like we’re learning a valuable lesson about resolve, care and tenacity. Our family is definitely richer for it.

 

We’re brand new foster parents! The down and dirty of our first two weeks

Steph and I got our first foster care placement on December 31st. I was at the grocery store, choosing a perfect avocado, when my phone rang and I saw who the number was from….

The call was for a respite placement – a foster mom had a death in the family and needed to go out of town for a week. Could we take an 18 month old, a 2 1/2 year old and a 5 year old sibling group while she was gone? YES! SIGN US UP! I was so excited, and immediately called Steph, then posted on Facebook. Tons of warm wishes came flowing in and I walked around Publix humming,  busily filling my cart with all kinds of kid-friendly foods.  I checked out at Publix and told the cashier what was going on. We laughed because I had come in for 5 things, and come out with $200 worth of groceries. She wished us luck and I walked out beaming. We were ready to do good work!

We were going to have FIVE children in the home! This was the minute we’d been waiting for – what all the hard work was for. Our house was about to be filled with laughter and joy!

Oh dear. The reality and my vision couldn’t have been more polar opposites.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when we signed up to become foster parents. But I might have had an image of a busy, bustling, happily noisy home, with Steph and I taking time out to attend, sequentially, to each child. A loving gesture here, a firm but kind redirection here. All the while feeling like we are good people and we have this.

What we were not prepared for was for our house to feel like a war zone. I don’t want to speak for Steph, but this is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So far, there are very few happy moments. Mostly, it’s just hard. Really, really hard. We’ve been told that being a foster parent is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do, and honestly we’re not feeling that. People tell us it will come.

Kids do well with routine and structure, and when their little worlds are turned upside down, all hell breaks loose. I joked with the caseworker that we had more screaming in our home in the first two days than I had experienced in my entire life. Except it wasn’t a joke. It was real. Poor August hates loud noises and every time T (2 1/2 year old girl) would start screaming, it terrified him and he’d melt down. Liam got pushed, hit and screamed at that first week, which had never happened to him before. And the kids were unpredictable – one minute Liam would reach for a toy and it would be fine. The next minute he’d do the same thing and they’d whack him on the head. Poor little guy.

In one of my low points, I told a friend what we were going through. She said words that really resonated with me. “You must feel like your family has been hijacked.”

We almost didn’t take the kids on long-term, because we felt way over our heads and because we were worried about what it would do to our kids. But the foster mom they were with was worn out. She was a single woman, worked full-time and then came home to take care of the children. She was exhausted and wasn’t wanting to do it long-term. And, it seemed like we were making huge progress in the one week we had them. So, Steph and I had a long talk and decided we could do it.

With the behaviors and intensity of the children, and the sheer number, we knew we couldn’t do it on our own, so I turned to Facebook and asked for people to sign up for shifts to help us with dinner/bath/bedtime routine. Within a day, I had 15 people reach out and sign up for their turn to help! It feels so good to know that we’re not doing this alone, and when someone walks in the door at 5pm, I feel instant relief like someone strong is here with fresh energy.

On the hardest day, when the oldest had a meltdown at the hospital where I had taken my son August for a check-up, I came home and felt defeated. We weren’t strong enough to do this. The kids needed someone who could give them more. That night a friend came over armed with kid-friendly food from Publix (apparently my idea of kid-friendly and what the kids would actually eat were very different!) and helped whip everything into shape. We sighed and knew we could do it for another day.

Having these kids have given the phrase “one day at a time” new meaning for me. Every day it’s a new challenge and I’m not sure we’re the ones to do this work – maybe someone else could do it better – be more patient – or have better success. But we hate to have the children move yet again to another home. We don’t want them to feel like they’re being given up on. So each day we start new and gear up to do it all over again.

Things have started getting a little easier – we’ve engaged with their mom and met her twice out at a park and restaurant before having her come to our home last night for the first time. She helped with T’s hair, and did the dinner/bath/bedtime routine with us. I may or may not have had a glass of wine while she handled her children and did “mom” duty. It actually went great. The kids act better for her than they do for us.

I also asked for a behaviorist to come into the home to help us with some of the troubling behaviors. Specifically, the oldest “Z”(5), is defiant, and won’t do things like…oh, go to bed, get up in the morning, get dressed, put his shoes on, etc, etc. That has been really difficult for us because in order for us to keep a household of 7 running smoothly, we need for the children to help us out. We also wanted help with the two younger two and their aggressive behavior. I’m not trying to get my throat grabbed and scratched again….The behaviorist came in today for THREE HOURS and met with me to go over each child and the behaviors that are a problem. We have a good game plan and are going to initiate a token system for the two older ones to help give them immediate feedback for good behavior. I also felt like all I was doing was penalizing and taking away privileges for bad behaviors, instead of turning it on it’s head and rewarding for good behaviors. So, the therapist is going to help me do that. I’m so thrilled!

That’s a snapshot of our first two weeks. Everything changes from day to day, so I’m going to try to do a better job of posting to the blog – even if it’s just short snapshots of how our days went.

For now, we’re barely holding our heads above water. Every time I think “I can’t do this anymore” I literally get a text, phone message or Facebook message telling us that we can do this. Yesterday I had four people randomly reach out to us, including one message that started out “You don’t know me, but…..” After I finished reading that message, I smiled, and knew we could do it for one more day.

 

 

Becoming Foster Parents – Our New Journey

Steph and I have made no secret about wanting a large family. After our third miscarriage last month, we decided to change course and get started immediately on something we’ve thought about for a long time.

What’s our path to our Brangelina-esque family? Steph and I have always known we wanted to adopt. We actually started down the adoption path after our second miscarriage, before we got pregnant with the twins. At the time, we went through Children’s Home Society, and were looking at adopting a baby. I desperately wanted a baby.

Now that we have two babies, I don’t feel that desperation, which is a relief. We want to adopt, but it’s ok if it’s an older child. In fact, we would welcome that! I’m ready for full-length Disney movies, running at the park, and soccer games. I’m not sure our 1-year-olds would take kindly to any of those.

So, after the miscarriage, I made the call to enroll in the “Foster to Adopt” program. We know a couple who adopted 4 boys through foster care, and that was the road Steph and I decided to go down next. In that program, you are fostering children who’s parents are in the process of getting their parental rights terminated.

Turns out that program no longer exists. You can’t just go into fostering saying that you want to adopt the children that stay with you. It doesn’t work that way. The goal of foster care is always re-unification with the parents. Most of the time, the children do go back home. It’s only when the parent can’t complete their case plan that parental rights are terminated and adoption becomes an option. If you have been fostering children for a long period, and their parental rights are terminated, the judge typically looks to you first to see if you want to adopt.

So, after some thought and talking with Steph, we decided to go down the foster parent route, knowing that we will have to give back most of the children we help.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m scared of what it’s going to feel like to give children back that I’ve loved as my own. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that. Especially when it comes to abuse and neglect, and knowing that a child that you love may be going back into a hostile or dangerous situation. But, you have to be strong enough to try to do what you can and then let these children go.

Really, in a way, a foster child, who may be with you for a day, a week, a month, or a year, is no different than your own children. Nothing is a given and you have to pack in all the love you can muster in a short period of time.

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We’re 3 weeks into the 7-week classes to become certified. Every Wednesday and Thursday, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm, you’ll find us in class, learning about grief, trauma, hope, and raw humanity. The first class was a doozy. I came home with a splitting tension headache from the stories I heard. And that was just the first class.

After we finish, we have a home study completed to make sure that our home is safe and sound. Then, everything is submitted to the state to get certified.We are hoping for children by the holidays.

Who will our children be? How many will we foster? The state allows each family to be certified for up to 5 children, including your own. You also aren’t allowed to have more than 2 children under the age of 24 months. We already have those 2 children, so we are hoping to foster a sibling set of three children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old.

That means that our bustling family is about to get even crazier! I’m not sure where this road will lead for Steph and I – whether we’ll end up fostering for years, or whether we’ll adopt children quickly. I just hope that we can do the best job we possibly can in truly making a difference to children who need our love. It’s a privilege to be able to give that love.

We’ll keep everyone updated!