Friday, July 17, 2015

Sometimes you have to say "No"

In the normal course of being a foster parent, you're asked to do a lot of things that take time, energy and sometimes even cash or other resources, and while most people are pretty good at knowing what their limitations are and sticking within the confines of those limits, I am definitely not one of those people! When people or organizations ask me to do something, my immediate answer is usually "sure" and then sometime in the future somewhere in the back of my head I start calculating how I'm going to pull off doing the things to which I've committed myself. This is how I ended up on the board of the association; this is how I've ended up with 15 kids in six years; this is how I ended up flooding my jeep one night after final exams (oh wait... that has nothing to do with fostering... I'll save that story for a future blog post).

Seriously, most people are able to keep a sane schedule. I don't understand that concept.

Now that we have four kids (one currently in foster status and three adopted) who all have multiple therapy appointments in a week and multiple extracurricular activities a week, I'm realizing that I have not done a very good job of protecting my own identity or needs. I have not done a very good job of being a good wife to my husband either - because not only do I stress myself out when I commit to crazy - I take away time from him and my kids - and I end up neglecting my relationship with him thinking that he will simply understand eventually. I also end up committing him to the crazy too, and that's simply not fair to him. Please don't tell him I said that though - it would totally erode my street-cred. I also am not doing a very good job of being the leader of my organization, friend to my friends, parent to my kids, advocate to the system, or even nurturing my relationship with God (yes, I know that likely makes some of you who know me scratch your heads because I don't come across as very religious, but I do have my own internal struggles).

As a foster parent, there are certain things that come along with any child placed in your home. You don't just get a kiddo and get to go on your merry way. Nope! Each kiddo comes with a whole constellation of players - they have biofamily. The have case managers (DCMs). They have child protective investigators (CPIs). They have therapists. They have baggage and trauma. They have guardians ad litem (GALs). They have children's legal services (CLS) attorneys. They have judges or magistrates. Did I mention trauma? Oh, and trauma. There's also trauma. And just in case I'm not clear, there's trauma. What looks like it would be so easy (you know, adding a child to your family), actually ends up becoming a carefully coordinated dance of meshing schedules and accommodating multiple, competing responsibilities and requirements. When you already have multiple kids and busy schedules, it makes things so much more complex.

Since DCMs are required to visit the kids in the home every 21 days and GALs are required to visit in the home every 30 days, and your licensing consultants are required to visit your home every 90 days, (and unannounced visits are required as well), it can get really interesting trying to make things work with an already packed schedule. Since my schedule is already so crazy and we live in a rural county it makes scheduling visits so much more difficult. But I've been doing it by ignoring my own needs and skipping my taekwondo classes (which are my sanity-saving time) to meet the needs of the players in the system. I made the decision not to do that anymore last night. I decided to make a stand and start realizing that I am important, and that if I do not advocate for my needs as well as the needs of others, that I wouldn't be able to effectively advocate for anyone else either. So I made a stand and sent the following email to our current DCM (whom I absolutely adore - so please don't think this is a judgment against her).

"Hi *insert DCM here*,

In response to your question as to whether my inability to have evening weekday visits anymore is temporary, I have to say nope. This is not temporary... I work 7-5:30, and since I work in Leon and live in Wakulla it takes an average of 30 minutes to get home and kids aren't home from TKD until 6 on M,W,F. I have to be able to leave at 6:45 to make it to my class on time which means I need to have time to feed, bathe and get kids ready for bed by 6:30 so that I have 15 minutes to read and sing songs and get them actually ready for sleep (and actually try to spend quality time with them). And get myself dressed for class too and maybe even have the time to go potty before I leave. Here's a normal day schedule:

4:30 AM Wake up start getting showered, dressed, pack lunches, make kid breakfasts

5:50 AM wake kids up to get ready

6:10 AM leave house for daycare

6:36 AM absolute latest time I can walk out the door of the daycare and still get to work on time if there's no traffic

7:00 AM arrive at work

5:30 PM leave work (sometimes I may be able to leave at 5:20 if I've had a day where I didn't get to take lunch because the day went to heck in a handbasket)

5:55 PM pick up kids from daycare (M,W,F Evan takes big kids to TKD at 5:25 until 6)

6:05 PM arrive home get dinner on table

6:15 PM start baths and getting PJs on and brush teeth

6:30 PM - 6:45 PM read/sing get kids settled to go to bed

6:45 PM Elie to bed

6:55 PM Liam to bed

6:55 PM leave for class

7:00 PM Breanna to bed

7:15 PM Warren to bed

8:30 PM Home from class, make dinner for next day, make lunches, get laundry ready for next day

8:35 PM maybe take a shower if I can fit one in and am really stinky, try to get association work done

??? PM Try to get to sleep at some point in time so I don't snap everyone's heads off

On the second Tuesday of the month I have to run a support group for foster/adoptive parents (okay - technically I don't do this right now, but we're trying to get this group started back up).

On the fourth Tuesday of the month I have to run the TAFAPA membership meeting from 6-8:30

Every week on either Weds or Thurs we have a therapist that comes for Warren and Liam from 6-8 PM

I've been trying to help co-facilitate the QPT classes on Tuesday evenings so we can support new foster parents coming on board, but I've only been able to make 1 of those so far.

On Mondays Warren has play therapy and I have a standing dr. appointment to get my B12 shot (thanks to surgery I have to do this forever now... yuck).

Friday nights I TRY (though lately have failed miserably) to go to our synagogue services (because well... sometimes a person needs something to help give them faith that the world is a decent place - I wish I could make it more often but am simply EXHAUSTED most weeks - hopefully God will understand).

Now add in a DCM visit once every 21 days, a GAL visit once a month, licensing once a quarter as the bare minimum visits required.

Saturdays we have swim lessons and piano lessons, and during the school year religious school until 12:30.

Sundays I try to see my family in town.

I haven't been able to get a haircut since the last time the kids locked the babysitter out. I haven't had a pedicure in three months (and I have the grocery store feet to prove it). Evan and I haven't had a date since his birthday.

I've used my lunch breaks and (what should be my day off though I haven't had one of those in months) to run errands and handle the training classes I've had to take recently, and I use my time in the car travelling to make all the phone calls to people who've requested my time each day.

Throw in court, sick kids and doctor's appointments (remember, B isn't my only child - I have four of the little monsters to coordinate), speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy appointments for Liam and Elie weekly, and my own need to go to the doc or dentist on occasion.

So I've decided that I am going to make time to do something for me. I'm burning out, and that isn't good for anyone else if I do that because I'm not nice or well organized when I'm tired, not well fed or cranky! :)

I had to pick something to move. Can't move therapy for the kids. They need that too badly.

Not willing to give up my classes because that's what's keeping me sane right now.

Can't not work - unless you give me the winning lottery ticket.

It stresses Evan out too much to try to coordinate a visit with just him home with the chaos of the evening routine - and when he's stressed out it makes my life so much more difficult.

So yeah. Now we're back to Saturday or Sunday.

I'm sorry - but I simply had to do something to help alleviate the stresses I'm feeling. :) after all, you need me to be at my best to help advocate not only for the kids in my care, but the other families who look to me for help as well.

I'm not trying to sound like superwoman - in fact I'm admitting that I'm most definitely not. :)

Does this explain why I'm limiting visits to weekends now?

Thanks, Heather"

I'm hoping she doesn't take this personally, and that she understands I'm simply trying to do what's best for my family so I can help do what's best for other families longer term also! I'm hoping she understands why I had to finally say "no!"

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