Category Archives: Foster Care

Elected Leaders YOU Are Being Held Accountable

I am sending this Open Letter To All Senators, Congressmen and Governors concerning The Broken System of Foster Care.

We MUST be the voice for these voiceless children!

I welcome comments in response to this article. You may also contact me by email: [email protected]

We must work together- Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike- for the sake of these children! They are our future!

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

An Open Letter To All Senators, Congressmen and Governors

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

An Open Letter To All Senators, Congressmen and Governors

I am going to take a small detour from the continuing story of our journey through the Foster Care system to address you, Sir and Madam- our elected officials.  You are the ones who have to make the changes necessary in this Broken System.

While I do not mind at all sharing our personal story, the main goal of this series is to fix the Broken System of Foster Care. To accomplish this goal I am going straight to the top-you- the lawmakers of this nation.

Over the last 4 years I’ve talked to many people about my concerns. I’ve started all the way at the bottom, and gone all the way to the top. I’ve made phone calls, I’ve written letters, I’ve written emails, I’ve filled out online forms and I’ve actually sat and had conversations in person. I’ve talked to Case Workers, Supervisors, Investigators; I even contacted one of my State Representatives, but never received so much as a “thank you for contacting me” email.

I am now going straight to the top and I am not going to stop until somebody, somewhere, listens to me and commits to helping me bring light to this Broken System.  I am determined to be the voice for these children who “slip through the cracks” way too often!

There are simple things that can be done immediately that would cost nothing, yet would streamline things drastically!

One specific thing is requiring that all communications be shared with all parties involved with the child’s case. I was shocked when I found out that it is not a requirement as a foster parent to send weekly reports to all case workers, attorneys, etc. I was required to send a report once a month to my private agency case worker.

I am a firm believer that communication is the key to the success of any relationship. Without communication a relationship- no matter what it is- will fail. Invariably.

As a foster parent, when I would send my monthly reports to my private agency case worker, or any other correspondence that dealt directly with the child, I automatically copied the ad lidem assigned to the child, the CPS case worker, and anyone else who may be involved in the case. Without fail, I was told by every single CPS case worker that I was the only foster parent who had ever included them in correspondence regarding the child. This bewilders me to this day!

With the technological capabilities that we have today there is absolutely no reason at all why everyone involved with a child should not be on the same page. If you are following our journey, you know that with our first two foster children, there was a court case deciding their case , yet neither my private agency case worker nor myself knew that a court date was scheduled! When the judge ruled that the children were to go to a relative immediately I was given 1 hour to collect their belongings and explain to them that they would be leaving our home. To children who have already had their lives disrupted this is just another upheaval in their lives!

Had I been aware that there was a court date I could have better prepared myself, the children, and their belongings. As it were I was the one that informed my private agency case worker as to what was going on, not the CPS case worker!

As I stated in my opening article for this series,  the ENTIRE system needs to be completely overhauled! We must start with changing the laws that are written to protect the rights of the biological parents more than the rights of the children.

We must weed out judges who give these abusive parents chance after chance after chance to get their lives together, all the while the children are left with their lives in limbo. Every child needs permanency! While the “goal for permanency” is touted in the Foster Care system, the implementation of making permanency happen in the lives of these children in an acceptable time frame is missing!

Too often CPS case workers are just there to “do a job” rather than making a difference. Don’t get me wrong, there are many case workers who do have a true passion for the children they work with. However, there are many who see their position as simply a paycheck. Because they are government employees they are protected more than they could dream of in a private sector job!

I have experienced personally how private agencies often view these children as nothing more than commodities rather than the precious lives in upheaval! As I continue to tell our story you will get a first-hand account of this actually happening!

I know of foster parents who see these children as nothing but a paycheck. They do the absolute barest minimum to care for these children, yet take advantage of the system at every available opportunity.

It is my hope and prayer that by telling our story someone, somewhere will help me completely overhaul the Broken System that consistently fails our children in Foster Care. We have to be their voice! I will not be silent until someone listens to me!

I ask you, Congressmen, Senators, Governors- will you listen? Will you step up to the plate and fight to make the necessary changes?

You ARE being held accountable!

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Our True Battle Begins

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is September 2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

It was not even a full month after we first received these two beautiful little boys that I received a call from the CPS Case Worker saying that she had just left the court proceedings and they would be at our house in an hour and a half to pick up the boys! What?!. I had never even been told that there was a court hearing scheduled that day. It was not until later that I found out that our Agency Case Worker was not even aware of a court date that was scheduled.

This is one of the MAIN reasons why Foster Care is a Broken System! In this day and age with the technology we have there is no reason in the world why communication cannot be streamlined so EVERYONE involved in the life and care of that child is aware of what is going on with their case!

At the court hearing, the judge ordered that the boys were to be taken out of foster care and placed with their grandmother. We had not been aware that this was even a possibility. From the time I received the call to the time that they came to pick the boys up was 1 hour. This is all the time I had to get them packed up and tell them that they would be leaving. I also called my husband frantically, telling him they were going to be leaving. Thankfully, he was already on his way home from work, so he would be able to tell them good-bye.

When the CPS Case Workers arrived to take them, I showed her the storage bins I had for them to take with them. One of the first things we were told in our classes is that anything that is bought for the children while they are with us goes with them when they leave our home. Most of these children have nothing that belongs to them. While I would have automatically done this, knowing that it was one of the main things that had been stressed to us in our classes made it even more important to me.

I am sure you can imagine my bewilderment when the Child Protective Services (CPS) Case Worker asked me if I was sure I wanted to send all of these things with them. I assured her that yes, I had already bought the storage buckets for them so I would be prepared whenever the time came for them to leave. Thankfully I had this taken care of the first few days so I did not send them off with a garbage bag of belongings.

I  reminded the CPS Case Worker that the oldest boy had celebrated his birthday with us, and that many of the things were his presents that he had received at his party. She told me once again that it was not necessary to send everything with them; I could keep some stuff for the next children we would receive. Once again I insisted that these things go with the boys.

By the time the boys were loaded in the car and buckled in their seat belts, this CPS Case Worker had asked me a total of 4 times if I was sure that I did not want to keep some of the things I was sending. By the last time, it was all I could do to keep my composure.

While we knew from the very beginning that these boys were not up for adoption, it was not easy at all to see them disappear down the road. These two little boys- our first sons- will always hold a very special place in my heart. Every time I see a bottle of Ranch Dressing I smile and think of the oldest one. My, how that little one loved his Ranch Dressing! I can still hear his little voice now- “Miz ‘Llenah, I want my ranch dressin’, please!”

That little boy stole my heart from the very first moment. I struggled more with the youngest one, because he cried for hours. He craved attention. While I would spend time throughout the day holding each of them, rocking them, playing with them, it was never enough for the youngest one. He would scream throughout the night. I was so mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted by the time they left, but I missed them before they were out of sight.

The next day, I called our agency case worker and told her we were ready for more children when they were available. She was bewildered, wondering what was going on with the boys. She was not even aware that they were being taken to the grandmother!

Our home was open once again.

It was at this time that she told me about another set of siblings- a little girl, 4-years-old and her brother who was 3-years-old. They had been placed in 9 different places, if I remember correctly. They were about to be moved again. She told me they should be ready to be adopted in December (this is now end of September 2007).

I did not hesitate! I told her absolutely we would take them! To know by December we could be finished with the Foster Care system and start just living life was a dream!

So we made arrangements to meet them. We decided it would be best not to just place them immediately, since they had been moved so many times. When we met them, we fell in love immediately. And they immediately began calling us mom and dad. That was a bit strange to me. In fact, they thought they were going home with us that day. They were so used to being moved around to different homes and different places they just naturally expected that they were on to their next stopping off place.

They came to spend one night with us the next week, and we made arrangements for October 1 for them to be placed with us. They didn’t want to leave to go back to the other home. So, October 1 came and they were brought to their new home.  Thankfully, this would be their last home. They would never be moved again! But, I am getting way ahead of myself here.

The day after the first two little boys were taken to their grandmother is when we agreed to take the next set of children. While we would not get them immediately, we were committed to taking them.

The next week, while discussing the brother and sister that we would be receiving with our Agency Case Worker, I found out that the first two little boys were back in the system. We did not know it at the time, but when they were removed from our home and taken to the grandmother, they were not taken to her home- they were taken to her place of employment! The grandmother had them only 4 days and discovered she could not handle them. She took them back to the shelter. This is now the second time the baby has been abandoned. His biological mother had left him literally on a street corner and drove off. Thankfully, it was on the street where the biological father lived, but that really does not make it any better. My prayer is that this baby is too young to remember what he has gone through.

I did not know what to do! Our little boys needed a home! But we had committed to the other two children! We were only licensed for two children. My heart was so very torn!

We discussed increasing our license to four children. I just did not know if I would be able to handle them all. I prayed and prayed, searching for an answer, but I did not receive one. All I could do at this point was trust that God would take care of these two little boys.

We had been told horrible things about the two children we were about to receive. They were destructive, no one could control them, there were major behavioral issues, and they were mean to animals. While some of the things we were told were true, not all of these things were. True facts or not, it does not hurt my heart any less to realize now that  ALL these two children wanted and needed was to be loved, to feel secure, and be given loving discipline.

From the very beginning we realized that these two children were not going to be nearly as easy as our first experience was.

Our Agency Case Worker had told us that their biological mother’s rights should be terminated by December- just two months away. Their biological father’s rights had already been terminated, and the final court date was scheduled in December.

There was a pre-trial date set for the end of October, to prepare for the Termination of Rights hearing in December. Never could I have ever imagined that our battle for these two children had only just begun.

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter of this series: Jumping Head First In The Fight For My Children

The previous chapter of this series: Love Plain and Simple

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Love Plain and Simple

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is September 2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

I had been told when I received the first call about these two little boys that they were foster children, not foster-to-adopt. The difference is with a foster-to-adopt child, the legal rights of the parents have already been terminated. For a foster child, they are in the system because they have been removed from their biological parents for reasons that are unique to each case. Reasons for removal can ranger from neglect all the way to actual physical or sexual abuse.

With the case of these two little boys, I was told that they could be in our home anywhere from 6 months to a year. It was not my ideal dream, because I didn’t want to ever have to let go of any child that we would have placed with us, but there was always the possibility that the rights of the biological parents would be terminated. If they were in our home, we would be the first to have the option of adopting them.

I am sure from the outside, reading this, that this sounds so harsh. How can I hope that someone’s rights for their biological child are terminated? Please let me make myself very clear before I go any further. It is my absolute belief that the absolute best place for a child is with their biological parents- IF, AND ONLY IF the child is in a healthy, safe and secure environment. If those three things- health, safety and security- are not the priority of the home- it is NOT in the best interest of that child to be with their biological parents just because they share the same DNA. It is not at all a biological argument, it is child’s well-being argument. If a child is in an unhealthy, unsafe or insecure place, they should be removed- biological, foster, adopted, day care, school, extra-curricular activity. This is just basic common sense- or, should I say, I would assume that this would be basic common sense. As I have stated throughout many of my articles it appears that common sense is a thing of the past! I have learned through our experiences in the Foster Care System that common sense is most definitely missing in regards to the rights of a child. More often than not, the “rights” of the biological parents are put before the rights of the child in the eyes of the law! It is absolutely appalling, but as you will see as our journey unfolds, the proof glaringly obvious!

Back to our story.

Within just a few days of the boys arriving to our home, the oldest one had a birthday. He was turning 4-years-old. Of course we planned a birthday party for him. He was so overwhelmed! Though we had invited just our closest friends, he received an abundance of birthday presents! We did not realize until later that he had probably never had a real birthday party. While I was so excited at the thought that we had the honor of giving him what was more than likely his very first birthday party, I was also overwhelmed with sadness- and anger- to realize that he had never had this joy given to him. Even if you are not wealthy you should be able to save up enough through the year for a very small birthday party! How much is a package of cupcakes? Kids do not expect extravagance!

It was the most amazing feeling in the world to be a mommy! While the youngest little boy could not talk yet, and the oldest little boy did not call me mommy, but chose instead to call me “Ms. ‘Llenah”, I was in fact their mommy at this point in their lives. This is not something that I took lightly. This was the most amazing honor, to know that I had been entrusted with these little lives.

There is a detail in this story that I have left out up to this point that I must add. For me and my husband it was not an issue at all. The only reason I am going to share this detail with you now is because it is something that I must bring to light, and to tell this part of the story, this detail must be shared.

These two little boys- our first two foster children- are black. For the record, my husband and I are very white!  I was told in the initial phone call their race, and it never fazed me. I did not care what color their skin was! I just wanted to love them!

It now becomes an important part of the story because it saddens me to realize that racism still runs so deep in the veins of our country. We can deny it all we want, but the reality is that there is racism that runs deep in all races. It is not just in the white community, racism exists in every community. Just as I, as a Caucasian (“white”) woman, am not racist, there are white people that are racist. There are black people that are not racists. There are black people that are racist. There are Hispanics that are not racists. There are Hispanics that are racists. There are Asians that are not racist. There are Asians that are racist. We cannot put a label on any one group because of a select group within that group.

I believe that the breeding of racism is actually fueled by every facet of our government. If it were not, why is it a question that is asked on every single legal and government form? The color of my skin does not determine my character, just as it does not determine yours.

I have taken a detour on this issue because it is another passion that is dear to my heart, as I am sure you can see by now. In fact, with our current President, it seems that anyone who opposes him is a “racist”.  I laugh- a very sad and ridiculous laugh- when I am called a racist or a bigot, which actually happens more than you probably would imagine due to the fact that I am heavily involved in political conversations online. If they only knew half of my views and actual life choices they would realize how ridiculous their words are. If they only knew the truth! But then again- most of these people who want to throw the race card around wouldn’t know truth if it jumped up and hit them in the face! Oh well. They are the ones with egg on their face, not me!

While I am very passionate about my convictions on this topic, I also realize that there are many who choose to live in ignorance. That is their prerogative. They will never know the many wonderful people they are missing out on knowing because they cannot see past the color of their skin.

I have tried to deal with this passionate conviction of mine by ignoring the ignorance of others. There are just some people that refuse to admit they may be wrong about something.

One Saturday, we took the boys to eat pizza. I was oblivious to everything and everyone around me. I was a mommy, and I was enjoying every single moment of it! As we were leaving, I could feel my husband’s tension. I asked him what was wrong. He said nothing was wrong, but I knew better. Something was just not right with him! I knew that there were no conflicts between the two of us; the boys had been perfect little angels; and there had not been any conflict that I could see while we were eating.  As I continued to question him, he told me we just needed to leave.

I finished wiping up the boys, and we headed out the door. My husband told me he would tell me what was going on when we got in the car.

Once we got the boys buckled into their car seats, and were driving away, he told me that there was an older white man in the restaurant that seemed to be appalled that we- a white couple- had two black children. My husband said every time I would wipe one of the boy’s faces, or give them a kiss, or tickle them, or whatever else I would do with them, he would grumble and scowl at me. He said it was all he could do to keep his mouth shut and not tell the man off.

I began to chuckle. My husband turned quickly and asked me what was so funny. I told him how sad it was that this man could not see past his own insecurities. He had to pass judgment on us, knowing nothing of our situation. I am by no means saying we deserve, need or want special attention or accolades for the call that has been placed on our hearts. It is actually quite the opposite. We are doing this because we have been called by God for a purpose. But this man has no idea the joy he is missing out on! All he could see is two very dark black little boys receiving love and affection, hugs and kisses from a very white couple. How could that be?

Love. Plain and simple. Love does now know the boundary of colors. Love is love. And strangely enough, it was not until my 30’s that I truly understood what love is. It is not at all what our society defines it as. I will have to write an article on this later, because I believe it is an intrinsic part of our journey. Love. Such a beautiful thing that is so misunderstood!

One of the most interesting details to this story is that overall, my husband is usually the very calm side of our marriage. I tend to be the irrational, impetuous, spout-off-at-the-mouth side of our marriage. In this instance, our roles were reversed. It took everything in him to remain calm and quiet, while in my obliviousness to this man’s racism, I was very calm, even after knowing the situation.

His ignorance did not matter the least to me. He was the one missing out. Not me!

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: Our True Battle Begins

The previous chapter in this series: Finally! The Pitter Patter of Little Feet!

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

FINALLY! The Pitter Patter of Little Feet!

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is September 2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

We had gone to all of our classes and received all of our certifications. We had all of our inspections completed. We had our medical exam. We had our TB Test. We had received our FBI background check and fingerprint check back. My husband had received his driving record. Still we waited for my driving record!

FINALLY it came in! Everything was completed! We had graduated and were now officially certified by the state of Texas to be Foster Parents! Now we just needed the children!

One of the first decisions we had already had to make was how many children were we going to get licensed for. This is asked on your original application. I wanted to start with one child. I was still very apprehensive about everything, so thinking about more than one child in the very beginning was unimaginable to me. However, my husband pointed out that by agreeing to take two, our chances of getting children quicker would increase, because we would be available to take sibling groups. This made sense to me, but I still was not so sure about it. I just did not know if I was going to be a good Mommy! And I would be all alone during the day with the child…errrrr… children! In the end, we agreed that we would get licensed to have two children in our home.

Within just a few days of getting my driving record in, we received our first call. I did not even wait to hear the entire situation before I was saying, “yes!” The very next day we would have children! Two little boys!

What should have been the most joyous day of our lives at this point was clouded over by a family crisis. We had been over to my in-laws visiting with them, filling them in on everything that was going on. We left, excited that in just a couple of hours the children would be with us.

On the way home, we had to stop by a friend’s house to pick up a car seat that she was loaning us. We had such short notice that we had not had time to go purchase one.  

As we were getting in the car to head home, my husband’s phone rang. I immediately knew something was wrong. I heard him say, “Don’t wait for an ambulance, get him to the hospital now, I’ll meet you there!”

It was my mother-in-law calling to tell my husband that his dad had collapsed and could not talk, and they were rushing him to the emergency room. I was devastated for several different reasons. Obviously, you never wish that anyone has health issues. I love my father-in-law dearly. I am very close to him. I did not want anything to happen to him. This was my first thought. Then came the realization that the case workers were literally on their way to bring us the children!

I asked my husband if he wanted me to call and cancel the child placement, and he almost screamed, “No!” My friend assured my husband that she would come to the house with me to help me with the paperwork and other particulars in the process of receiving the children.

We raced home, my husband dropped me off, and he took off to the hospital. My friend was right behind me.

The next hour was one of the most nerve-wracking hours of my life.

Child Protective Services (CPS) and our Agency Caseworker arrived with the children. They were two little boys- brothers- 2-years-old and 3-years-old.

Thankfully, our house was only about 3 miles or so from the hospital. My husband ran home from the hospital to sign paperwork, meet the boys, and head back to the hospital to be with his dad. At t his point, things were very touch and go. They had determined that he had suffered a stroke. The outcome would not be known for 24 hours.

They had to make a decision whether or not to give him a drug to counter-act the stroke. There was risk of sudden death with this medication, but this was the only hope of him recovering to any sense of normalcy. Otherwise, if he did not take the drug, it was very unlikely that he would recover, and there was still the possibility of death. The family decided to give him the medication.

Thankfully, his dad has made an excellent recovery. I know this is not something he would have ever wanted to happen, but one thing I have learned through my life is that we are in control of nothing outside of the choices we make. Things happen. The real test of character is how you deal with the things that happen.

Later that night, when things were looking more stable with his dad, my husband came home to spend time with our new children. This was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

As I have written in previous articles, I still tease my husband to this day that he wanted to be a father before he wanted to be a husband. In many ways, though I am teasing him, I do believe that is partially true. His youngest sister was born when he was 14-years-old, so he was a very big part of caring for her as a baby.

My husband was 28-years-old when we got married. He has never been married before, and has no children from previous relationships. So his dream was finally being fulfilled after almost 19 years in the making.

Watching my husband play with these two little boys warmed my heart beyond words. I was enjoying them, and thankfully, my friend had been there to help me with the legal side of things- coordinating the search for marks on their bodies so that could be documented, getting them bathed,  and getting them  settled in for their first night in their new home. As much as I love my friend, she is not my husband. She had been there with me for so much of the process of our fertility journey, but your friend is not the same as your husband. So when my husband got home and joined us, my friend went home. And it was just our little family. Finally!

The thought was almost overwhelming!  In many ways it had been a whirlwind! Though our journey had spanned the course of several years, this process had taken us to the deepest depths of darkness in so many ways. Even tonight- the very first time we were to be called “parents”-  we had a crisis to face. And yet, the bright light shining on my husband’s face and in his eyes as he played with his two sons was absolutely amazing! The most beautiful sound I believe I had ever heard up to this point was the pitter-patter of four little fun running around our home. The giggles were infectious! Finally! Our dream had been realized.

Maybe!

____________________

The Purpose Of  This Series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: Love Plain and Simple

The previous chapter in this series: Fostering Hope

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Syllabus To Be A Parent

 

So what does it take to be a Foster Parent, you ask? This is just the basic information of the courses you have to take and be “certified in” to become a Foster Parent. I will refer back to this document from time to time during my ongoing series on the Broken System of Foster Care.

In addition To the course list below, you are required to have:

  • Home Health Inspection
  • Home Fire Inspection
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Test
  • FBI Background/Fingerprint Check
  • Medical Checkup

Is there anything on the above list of requirements that seems to be missing to you? I find it odd that Foster Parents are NOT required to take a drug test! To date I know of only one local private Foster Care agency that requires their Foster Parents to take a drug test. Considering the fact that drugs are a major contributing factor in the lives of children in Foster Care, I would assume this would be a requirement.

A Tuberculosis test is required, but an HIV test is not required. There are no other medical test/drug tests that are required.

I. PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION COURSE
Basic Medication Information
                Five Rights
                Infection Control
                Classification of Medications
Side Effects vs. Adverse Reactions
When To Call The Doctor
What Medications Can Be Cut
When Medication Should Be Given
Who Can I Contact With Questions?

Where Do I Store Medication?

Look At Medications With A Child’s Eye


II. POLICIES & PROCEDURES COURSE
III. UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS COURSE
 
IV. PREP COURSE 1  (Parenting Resourced and Education for Permanency Training for Foster/Adoptive Parents)  ALL DAY COURSE
Lunch Break, with 1 small bathroom break in the morning, 1 small bathroom break in the afternoon

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
                Increase knowledge of children in foster care
                Increase parenting skills to nurture and protect children
                Develop Abilities as part of a professional team; support permanency for children
                Help you decide on commitment to be a foster or adoptive parent
History of Foster Care In The U.S.
AFCARS Report- Statistics- Adoption & Foster Care Analysis & reporting System (as of September 2005)
AFCARS Report- Statistics
Agency Expectations
Child Abuse & Neglect
Child Abuse & Neglect Statistics
Reporting Child Abuse
How The Brain Develops- Neurobiology
Attachment Theory
Child Development Theories
Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development
Hierarchy of Human Needs
Stages of Grief
Discipline vs. Punishment
Role of Families
Resiliency
Teamwork
End of Prep 1

V.  PREP COURSE 2 (Parenting Resourced and Education for Permanency Training for Foster/Adoptive Parents)   ALL DAY COURSE
1 Morning Break, Lunch Break, 1 Afternoon Break

Sexual Abuse
Types of Sexual Abuse
Effects of Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse Outcry Procedure
Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Cycle

Effects of Domestic Violence

Drugs and Alcohol

Effects of Parental Use of Alcohol & Drugs on Children

Parental Incarceration

Effects of Parental Incarceration

Parenting Traumatized Children

Six Core Strengths

                Attachment

                Self-Regulation

                Affiliation

                Attunement

                Tolerance

                Respect

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Reducing SIDS Risk

Cultural Diversity

Adoption and Safe Families Act

Permanency

Additional Information to Foster/Adopt

                Communication

                New Perspective on Anger

                Anger/Stress Management

                TEAMWORK Foster/Adopt Parents & Children         

PREP Completed

VI.SAMA  (SATORI Alternatives To Managing Aggression)

VII. SAMA COURSE 2 (SATORI Alternatives To Managing Aggression)

VIII. CPR/FIRST AID COURSE

____________________

The Purpose Of  This Series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

San Antonio, TX: Good People Needed!

  

This is an email that I received from one of my contacts I have made through my journey in the Foster Care system. If you are interested, or know someone that is, I can personally speak for the authenticity of Mrs. Villarreal.

Need Good People!! Please Pass On!

Dear People I Know,

My company, Pathways, has a contract to provide Hospital Sitting services to children in state care who are hospitalized for medical reasons and require an adult to be present during their stay.  We are looking for help to spread the word and find more people willing to be there for a child in need.  Our referrals range from newborns to teens and a Sitter can sign up for as many or as few “shifts” as they would like when we send out the announcement for a specific child.  The Sitter is there to provide company, document the medical progress and services, and advocate for them if they are in need of immediate attention.  No medical knowledge or experience is required — just some time and a desire to help. Sitters are paid $10 per hour.

I am hoping you’ll share this information with friends, families, co-workers, church members, neighbors, etc. to help us meet the increasing need for this service.  An application packet is attached!  If you have questions please call Suzette at 210-733-7117 or share her email ([email protected]) with anyone interested.

Thank you!

Danielle Villarreal
Family Specialist
Pathways Youth and Family Services, Inc.
4243 E. Piedras Drive, Ste. 100
San Antonio, TX 78228
(210)733-7117 Phone
(210)733-7118 Fax
[email protected]

Fostering Hope

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is March-September 2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

During the 8 weeks of our training, we met another couple who were going through the process to be foster parents. We got to know them quite well, and shared with them why we were going through the process.

Their goal was different from ours. They had a daughter who was already grown and had her own son, but they knew that had a big house with a lot of room, and plenty of love in their hearts to share with kids who needed love.

We never would have imagined when we first met them how quickly we would all become so close. I am so thankful that this was the case, because this process is not a walk in the park. It is a very long and enduring journey. You need someone to help you cope with everything you are experiencing. If they are experiencing the same process, it helps, I believe.

It did not take long for us to realize that there were many people that did not have the same intentions that we did. I was appalled at some of the questions that we heard during our classes.

How would we be paid?

When are we paid?

How do they determine what children are placed in what home- do they look at race?

Money seemed to be the main goal for many of these people! Yes, it is an added bonus that the State pays you to be a foster parent. In most cases, you are even compensated in adoptions as well. But to know that the only questions these people had was in regards to the money just infuriated me! Not only were they here seeking a way to make money, but they were doing it at the expense of children who had already been abused! These children were nothing but pawns- a way to make an extra buck- for these people!

For others, to know that they would not accept a child into their home that was a different race just sickened me. I am by no means trying to judge, but a child- any child, no matter what color their skin is, should be loved and cherished.

If you are not wanting to adopt a child of a different race, I can somewhat see through those lenses. I do not agree with it at all, but I can accept that. But to know that you will not even hug a child, provide them with shelter because their skin is a different color, this is just absolutely disgusting to me. However, I am sure it is better that this be made known rather than have a child of a different race be placed in that home and then that child becomes a victim of abuse at the hands of someone who is supposed to be protecting them from the abuse they have already endured.

At times, it was very difficult to sit through our classes that were required for our certifications. It was not at all because the information was too difficult. It was because of the other people who were there to be certified.

After going through this process, I believe one of the first steps in the process should be a complete drug screening and psychological check. Many of these children in foster care are removed because the biological parents are using illegal substances in the home. The State does not require that foster parents be drug tested. This is just amazing me to me. We had to have a TB test taken, but we never once had to give a urine or blood specimen.

I believe a psychological exam should also be required, because some of the people that were in our classes definitely would not have passed. How in the world can you entrust a child to people like this? They have already been taken from one home, at the very least, if not many homes. Putting them in yet another home where there is psychological issues of any kind is asking for trouble.

You are required to have a home study. I would assume that a lot of information comes out in these home studies. Having gone through one, I know the questions that are asked. However, if you decide to be dishonest, and there is nothing on your legal record, then there is no way of really knowing the truth. I believe this is how many people slip past the approval process who should never be allowed to have a child in their home. A psychological exam would prevent some of these issues. I am sure that some would slip by still, because no system is perfect. However, if just one foster parent who had ill-intentions or psychological issues was prevented from going through the system, then all the money that is required to implement this process would be worth it- for just one single person.

We finally completed our classes, obtained all the licenses we needed, had our fingerprints taken and our backgrounds checked, and had our TB test taken. All we were waiting on was my driving record. My husband’s driving record had arrived, but mine had been lost in the mail somewhere. By the time it was all said and done, we had to request my driving record four times before we actually received it.

It truly is amazing how God works. Even when you do not understand something, there is always a purpose and a reason for things happening. Every day that I live, this is concreted more securely in my mind and heart. Everything happens for a reason! Even if we do not understand what that reason is, there is still a reason.

We were getting very anxious. The only thing we needed was one piece of paper, and we could have children in our home.

I had already resigned my position at work so I could stay at home with the children. We had the rooms ready and waiting.

And we sat waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

It was almost a month after I quit my job before we were actually able to bring children home. Looking back, I realize now that God was giving me a vacation. It was already much needed, but I could have never imagined that this almost month of vacation was going to be something I would have to draw from in the years to come. 

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: Love Plain and Simple

The previous chapter in this series: Finally! The Pitter Patter of Little Feet!

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Facing My Fears

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is January-March 2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

We finally decided we had reached the end of the fertility journey. We would not try again. It was just too painful. Not necessarily physically, though that was painful. The emotional and mental pain was unbearable at this point.

We had discussed adoption, and were both very willing to adopt, but we also knew that we did not have the financial resources to pursue this option. So at this point we were going to have to just accept that we were not going to have children.

We had talked about trying to move closer to my family. My brother lives in the Dallas area, and we live in the San Antonio area. While we are in the same state, we are still about 3 ½ hours apart. We began to pray about it and left it in God’s hands.

My husband began searching for a job in the area. If this was what God wanted, He would have to open the doors necessary for us to move.

Within just a few days he got a response from his resume, and had a phone interview that went very well. They asked him to come up for an interview in-person. We made the arrangements and went to Dallas for his interview. He was offered the position.

We gave our notices at work, gave our notice to our landlords, and began to make preparations for the move. However, I never packed a single box. Usually, that is the first thing I do if we are preparing for a move.

We made arrangements for my brother and his family to help us move some things to their house temporarily. My husband would go on and start working while I stayed behind to finalize the packing and moving preparations. My brother and his family came down to take a bed back with them. My husband was to leave on Sunday to start work on Monday.

Saturday night we were both very restless. We lay in bed, talking. Neither of us were at peace. Why was this? We had prayed for God’s direction, He had answered. All of the doors were thrown wide open for us. We had not received any bumps along the way. So why were we not at peace? 

We did not go to sleep until 4am Sunday morning. He was supposed to leave around noon. After an entire night of talking and praying, we decided that he was not going to go to Dallas. We did not understand why this had all happened, but we knew very clearly that he was not supposed to go. None of this made sense to either of us. Why would all of this have happened if we were not supposed to move?

My husband had no problem at all rescinding his notice at his job. He did not know it at the time, but another co-worker had given their notice the same week he had given his. This left his company with only one systems analyst in the field. His boss had asked him if he would reconsider the move, and my husband told him this was the decision we had to make. Friday- his last day of work, his boss offered him a considerable raise to reconsider.

We have often wondered if this was the reason this all happened. Was this God’s way of providing more income for us? I do believe this is part of the reason. But the real reason- or should I say reasons– were yet to be realized.

Around this time we had friends who had become foster parents through the State. They told us about the program, and suggested that we check it out. We were not sure how it all worked, but needless to say, our interest was piqued.

I was in a discussion with two of my dear friends who knew the fertility process we were going through. I told them about our other friends who were becoming foster parents, and suggested that we check into it. I told them that I did not know if I wanted to do it. One of the ladies turned to me and said, “You are being selfish.” She told me that I was being selfish in many ways, none of the least of which was that I was depriving a child the love of a good home. Wow! Talk about hitting you below the belt! That took a lot to digest.

That day she shared something with me that I had never known about her- she was adopted. I knew she had a very difficult childhood, but I did not know that she had left home at an early age and was taken in by friends’ family. At the age of 18 they adopted her. She said if it were not for the lady that adopted her, she would not know Christ today.

She made me stop and think. The reality of the situation was that I was scared. We had gone through so many procedures, jumped through so many hoops, had our hearts hurt so many times; the thought of more pain was just unbearable. I was letting fear prevent me from moving forward.

That day I faced my fears. I realized that my friend was right. I was being selfish. At this point I could not even acknowledge to myself, much less voice to someone else that her arguments had been right.

Over the next couple of weeks I thought a lot about our conversation. I talked to my husband about everything, and he was completely ready to find out what we needed to know to get started in the foster-to-adopt program.

In March of 2007 we attended the informational meeting. The thought alone was overwhelming to me. We could go through these classes, get our certifications, get our background checks, have our home inspected, and we could have kids. And it would cost us very little money! The only out-of-pocket expenses we would have would be the fees necessary for background checks, licensing fees, and the other miscellaneous items. With a quick calculation, we were estimating less than $300 total and we would be able to be parents! Why was this not made known to more people who are struggling to have children?

It would not be long before I understood that it’s not really that simple.

We took an application home and filled it out. Within a week we were sitting in our first class.

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: Fostering Hope

The previous chapter in this series: A Missed Message

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

A Missed Message

This continues the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is 2002-2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

I hate tests. It does not matter what kind of test it is or how well I know the information. For some strange reason, I become a bundle of nerves when I have to take a test. So it should not have surprised me when time after time after time I failed this test too! How in the world do you fail a pregnancy test? Well, I figured out how!

You may be wondering how in the world I seem to be making a joke about something so serious. I have learned through this whole process that you have to find humor in all situations. I have not been able to do that in every step of this journey, but when I find something that is remotely funny, I hold on to it for dear life. I guess in some small way this is how I hold on to my sanity. Well, there would be some that would argue that point as well, but it helps me cope!

When we decided that we would go down the road of fertility treatments, we sat down and discussed where we would stop. We knew that we had to have a line firmly drawn in the sand before we ever got started. Just as with anything, if you do not know where you stand before you get into the situation; it is way too easy to keep moving the line for which you say you will not cross. For each couple that line is different. For us, we decided together that we would go no further than the IUI (Inter Uterine Injection). We knew that IVF was out of the question for us. Financially, there was just no way IVF was an option for us. But aside from the financial decision, in our research throughout this journey, we have found out that this procedure is very painful. They actually harvest the eggs from the woman’s ovaries.

My body had already endured so many procedures at this point that I was in pain all the time. I refrained from voicing this to anyone outside of my husband. I tried not to tell him, because I knew that he was very torn. While he wanted children, he did not like to see me going through so much pain. I already had weight issues before we started this process, but the continual medications and hormonal changes sent my weight into overdrive. This was the last thing we needed.  I had to have so many blood tests that I was virtually a walking bruise. I had to have so many sonograms that just seeing a sonogram machine in the hallway made my body tense up.

Early on in our procedures, they discovered that my Estrogen level was extremely low. What this means is that if I did become pregnant, the risk of miscarrying was huge. My body would not be able to carry a baby to term with my Estrogen level so low. So I had to take Estrogen suppositories vaginally after every attempt to get pregnant, just in case the attempt was successful. This process was very messy and felt disgusting. And I had to make sure it was left in as long as possible. So once again, I had to make sure my buttock was elevated for an extended period of time. I started out with one suppository a day, and then increased to two a day. So I was going to bed with a treatment and waking up with a treatment. Remaining graceful during this part of the process was impossible.

I do not give these explicit details for sympathy or shock value. As much detail as I am giving, it does not fully depict the actual experience. For the sake of some semblance of privacy for us, as well as decorum with my readers, I am trying to be as vague as possible. However, to get the real picture, you have to hear some details.

And again, you may be asking yourself, as my friend asked me, why would I go through so much pain? Because we wanted a child. We wanted to be parents.

My friend, though I am quite sure she had the best of intentions, hurt me more than words can say. In the conversation where she was berating my husband for “making” me go through all of this, she told me that I did not need to go through all of this for kids, I could enjoy her kids. While, again, I realize she was trying to help the situation, she had no idea that she was making it so much worse.

We had gotten to the pinnacle of our fertility journey. This was the last procedure. We were at the IUI point. We had decided we would not do more than two IUI procedures. If neither were successful, that was the end of the road for us.

We went in for the procedure.

Unfortunately, this is not at all what I had envisioned as a little girl when I dreamed of becoming a mommy. Going into a doctor’s office, having my temperature taken time and time again, having blood drawn time and time again, having sonograms done time and time again, taking numerous medications time and time again- well, that does not make for the most romantic movie scene.

This experience was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of our journey. First, I had to go through the entire procedure of having a sonogram done to make sure the follicles were the right size to proceed. They were. So on to the next step.

My husband had to make a “deposit” in a cup. Again, not the most romantic experience that you dream of. Add that to the fact that the office was in the middle of moving to another location, so there were boxes stacked all through the halls, examining tables moved out into the hall, people milling around everywhere- all of this while we are in the private “room” (a large restroom with a chair, a TV/VCR combination, and a diverse collection of adult movies and magazines). While we were nervously trying to do what was necessary, there was a very loud bump at the door of our “room”. An examining table had inadvertently been shoved into the door. By this point, we were both ready to get this over with.

After the “deposit” was made, we had to give it to the nurse in the lab. She had to run tests on the “deposit” to make sure everything was good with that side of the procedure. It would take an hour to know if it was or not. So we went to lunch.

After lunch, we went back to the office, and yes, that side was good as well. So off to the examining room we go. My legs go up in the stir-ups yet again. A syringe is inserted into me, and my husband’s sperm is injected straight into my cervix. While it was by no means the most comfortable thing in the world, definitely not romantic or pleasurable, by any stretch of the imagination, but neither was it the most painful experience. After the injection, I had to lift my buttocks off the examining table as long as possible. Then I had to turn on my side, all the while, keeping my buttocks elevated. By the end of the procedure I was sure that I was qualified to join the circus!

After the procedure was completed, we were free to leave. Thank you very much, ma’am! Gives new meaning to the term Wham! Bam! Thank you, Ma’am!

So now the waiting begins. We had become quite accustomed to waiting.

And then it arrived. It was one of those dreaded mornings. It was time to pee on a stick yet again.

I went to the bathroom and peed on the stick. And we sat waiting and watching the clock. The five minutes you have to wait for the test results to show on the stick seems more like five hours. But finally the wait was over. We held hands and walked over to the bathroom counter. I am sure we looked like we were taking the walk to the death chamber. Negative.

So we try one more time.

My husband asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through another procedure. At this point I could not even answer him. I ran a bath, and crawled in the hot water. I was hurt. I was angry. And I had to get ready to go to work. I cried. I got angry. I got angry with God and I told Him all about it.

Very few times have I known that God has spoken directly to me. But this day, I knew God had spoken. But I did not like what He said at all! “Be still and know that I Am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

This sent me into a rage. I was having a full conversation- out loud- with God. No, I was not praying. I was ranting. My husband came around the corner of the bathroom and asked me what in the world was going on. I told him I was talking to God.  The look on his face spoke volumes. He knew that I was angry. I told him that God had spoken to me, and what He had said. But when I spoke the words, they came out more as a curse than an acknowledgment or praise of God Almighty. There was heavy sarcasm in my voice as I spat out, “Be still and know that I Am God. What does He mean? Does He think I don’t know Who He Is?” At this point, my husband is almost literally backing away from me. He has no idea why in the world this has upset me. It did not stop there. I was in a very foul mood as I got dressed. At this point, we only had one vehicle, so he drove me to work. As I got out of the car, he kissed me goodbye and wished me  good day. I started up once again, my voice full of sarcasm as I repeated what God had told me that morning.

Did He really not think I knew Who He Is? This truly boggled my mind. And it made me angry. While I have not always lived my life in a Godly manner, I have never doubted the existence of God. For many years of my life I felt that I could never measure up to God’s standards. I knew I could not be good enough. I had tried and failed too many times. I did not know all of those years as I continued to run from God that this is exactly the point. I can never be good enough. None of us can ever be good enough. That is why Jesus had to become our Sacrificial Lamb on the cross. But it was never shown to me in this way, so I did not understand it. But by this point in my life, I did get it. I knew that I knew that I knew Who God Is.

Knowing that I had already gone through the excruciating painful, yet very beautiful journey of discovery God in all of His majesty, glory, mercy, love, and forgiveness, I did not understand why God would be telling me this. Especially on a day like today, when we had yet another let-down in trying to have a child. I know Who God Is. Where is His message of hope and love? Where is His message of encouragement and promises? There was nothing. There was only the reminder that He Is God.

I totally missed the message that day. It was not until many months later, if not a couple of years later that I actually understood what God was telling me that day. Now, this verse of Scripture is one of my favorite. It is one that I hold on to in my desperate hours. It is so important to me that it is posted in two different places in our home.

God IS God. Yes, I understood that. But I did not get the being still part. I am a person who is always on the go. My brother jokes with me that I need to start a “Flutter-ers Anonymous” Group. “Hello, my name is Allenah, and I am a flutter-er. It is a struggle for me to sit and watch a 30-minute TV show. To watch a movie without getting up is next to impossible. I absolutely hate going to the movie theatre. To be confined in one place for so long is excruciating for me.

To me, telling me to be still meant to sit still, physically. While yes, I do believe that is part of the meaning of the Scripture, there is so much more depth that is there. It is not just to be still physically, but to be still spiritually. Do not fret. Do not worry. Know that God IS in control. He knows what He is doing. He has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)

To this day, Psalm 46:10 brings a smile to my face. It is a peaceful smile. If my husband and I are together and this Scripture is quoted, there is a knowing glance between us. God did give me a promise that day. I just did not understand it at the time.

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: Facing My Fears

The previous chapter in this series: Dreams Of A Little Girl Shattered…Or Are They?

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Dreams Of A Little Girl Shattered.. Or Are They?

This begins the story of our journey to have a family. The time frame for this chapter of our story is pre-2007.
If you continue to read along, you will see first hand the reality of how broken the Foster Care system truly is.

____________________

You were created for a purpose. In fact, each of us was created for a special, unique purpose. Sadly, many of us go through many years of our lives not having a clue what our unique purpose in life is. Unfortunately, too many people never seem to find their unique purpose in life.

If you had told me as little as 4 years ago that my purpose in life was to become intertwined in politics I would have laughed in your face and probably had a few “not so nice” words for you. I absolutely, positively despise politics. I am not a game player, and I see politics as nothing but a huge game at the expense of other people.

I also believe that everything in life that happens, happens for a reason. We may never know why some things happen, but there are other times I believe that it becomes quite evident why something or a series of events happen.

I view my entire life through the lens of believing that every single thing serves a purpose for my specific purpose in life. If I had not lived through the things I have lived through I would not be the person I am. While I am by no means perfect, I am very happy with the woman I have become.

However, it has not always been that way.

I will tell you how it all began… me becoming so intertwined in the very thing I detest so much- politics. This is a very personal and painful story that has spun into what has now become a life-long commitment to shed light on and change a system that is completely broken.

There are a couple of things that most every little girl dreams of. The first is her wedding day. Before she learns to walk in high heels, it is quite likely that she has planned her wedding down to the tiniest detail. She knows what her color scheme will be.  She knows what her cake will look like. She knows what her brides maids dresses will look like. And most importantly, she knows what her wedding gown will look like.

It is not important to her at this point that she has no way of knowing the most important detail- who her groom will be.

Nor is it important to her that she has not given this man, who she has most likely not even met at this point in her young little life, the opportunity to make choices on their very special day.

The wedding day is, of course, all about what the bride wants, right?

Another day that most every little girl dreams of is the day she becomes a mommy. From the earliest age we are given baby dolls so we can prepare to be the best little mother in the entire world!

As a child, my favorite toy was my baby dolls. I was never one to play with Barbie Dolls. In fact, I do not believe I ever owned a Barbie. However, I had countless baby dolls. My dollies and I would play for hours, lost in our little world of make-believe.

I was an odd mixture of a child. I was one who always wanted to be grown up way before my time. And yet, I was perfectly content to play with my dolls, lost in a world that disappears from us way too quickly- childhood.

I crossed over the bridge from being a child to a lady way too young. From the very beginning I had numerous problems that have lasted me my entire lifetime.

When I was about 20-years-old I first heard about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I read a magazine article, and they listed all of the symptoms. I had every single symptom! I copied the article and took it to my doctor. She tested me, and told me that no, I did not have it. At the time, very little was known about PCOS. I thought I had the answer, only to be shot down again.

Over the years, I honestly cannot tell you how many doctors I have seen. I am what some would call an anomaly. If there’s a strange health issue, more than likely, I have it. I do exaggerate here, and honestly, I do thank God for my good health. Though I have many issues, I know I could have it a lot worse. So, though I have seen many different doctors, for various different reasons over my lifetime, most of the time my doctor visits centered around the parts of my body that define me as a woman rather than simply a human.

When I was in my early 20’s I was diagnosed with Human Papaloma Virus (HPV). At the time, I was mortified! It is a sexually transmitted disease. It was not until many years later that I would discover that nearly 80% of the population has HPV- and many do not even know they have it.

After it was discovered that I had HPV I began the treatment. There are no words to express the pain involved in the treatment of HPV. I’ve had several different procedures over the years. The first treatment was freezing. They froze my cervix. And then they thawed it out. And then froze it again. And then they thawed it out again. Quite honestly, I cannot tell you what else is involved in the procedure. I know there is something else, but I do not remember. I believe I’ve had the freezing procedure done twice. This procedure is not only painful during the process of the procedure, but the aftermath is almost as bad.

Later, I had the CONE Procedure. This procedure requires that they cut a cone-shaped piece of your cervix out. You only have a local anesthesia. As with the freezing, not only is it very painful during the procedure, but it is also very painful during the healing process as well.

I ended up moving to another state, and had to find another doctor. So the search began yet again.

I went to see a doctor that had been recommended to me. I had such a bad experience with her that I swore I would never go back to another gynecologist.

By this point in my life, I have had so many bad experiences with doctors that I cannot recount them all. This last was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the saying goes. I finally said enough. No more. I refuse to put my legs up in stir-ups for anyone else! Man or woman, it didn’t matter.

But with the issues I have had over the years, I should have known I would never be able to stick to my word.

When I was in my early 30’s I began having severe pains in my abdomen. I tried to dismiss the pains, but eventually they got so bad that a friend and my husband ganged up on me and insisted that I go to the doctor. I am very thankful that they did, because this doctor diagnosed me with endometriosis. I had to have surgery to address that issue.

After the surgery, I had to be put on medication to put me in chemical menopause for 6 months. I was told exactly what to expect. But in reality, there is no way you can fully grasp what is going to happen. Thankfully, I was prescribed what we called “Happy Pills” during this time. If not, my already bald husband would have been pulling out the stubble. It was no fun at all- for either of us, or anyone that spent any time at all around me.

It was probably around this time in my life where I began to truly feel less of a ________.

You can fill in the blank with many different words. The first word was “woman”. I felt like I was not truly a woman. Not only had I never had children, but now I was going through menopause. Keep in mind I was well informed that the treatment would only last for 6 months, and then I would be off of the medication and have a normal cycle again. I felt less of a person because I could not lose the weight that I needed to lose. 

I am sure at this point you are wondering where my rational thinking was. That’s the point. I was not rational at all.

 I have spoken to other women who have gone through chemical menopause, and the reaction is wide and varied. Mine seems to be one of the most extreme experiences. One of my friends had very little change mentally or emotionally when she had to have the same treatment.

After completing the 6 months of chemical menopause, we began to try to have children. Previously, we had not tried to prevent pregnancy, but it had not been a consistent calendaring of events.

This is where the real fun begins.

After several months of actively trying to conceive, with no results, I went back to the doctor. My doctor told me there was nothing more he could do to help me, I had to help myself. He told me that the endometriosis was taken care of, so the only problem I was having in conceiving was that I needed to lose weight. This would solve the problem.

Almost in tears, I asked him how to do that. His next words infuriated me beyond words. “Just don’t eat so much”. I had to clamp my mouth shut before I went off right there in the office. Sure, he had no problems. He was very fit and slender. It was quite obvious he had not struggled a day in his life with weight issues. And not only that, my husband is very slender and eats twice as much as I do, if not more!

Since he did not feel that he could help me any further, he referred me to his colleague, who is a fertility specialist. Thankfully, I did not open my mouth and say the things that were on the tip of my tongue, because the referral was the beginning of a lot of answers for me.

I was very leery to go to my first appointment with yet another doctor. I could not tell you what number this one was.

When I met the new doctor, at once I was put at ease. He was not slender. He is a plump little man with a smile that warms the room and my heart. He has the bedside manner that I have always dreamt of. During the very first visit, I told him exactly what his colleague had told me and how I felt about him. His response was not at all what I imagined. He said, “Well, yes, losing weight may definitely help- not in just conceiving a child, but in a healthier life. But that may not be the complete answer. As you can see, I need to lose weight too. So, I’ll lose 10 pounds if you’ll lose 10 pounds.” Immediately I was at ease.

Now, honestly, neither of us lost the 10 pounds. But to have him treat me as a person with feelings rather than him ridiculing me made all the difference in the world.

The first thing he did was run a complete battery of blood test. I had told him that I had all the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), but they had told me for years that I do not. He looked over my information and agreed that yes, I had every single symptom. When the test results came back, it showed up as negative for PCOS. I started crying, right there on the examining table as he talked to me. He immediately started patting my hand. He assured me that he was going to do the test again. He saw the issues, and was not giving up. So, when the second set of test results came back negative, he told me not to worry, he was going to treat me for PCOS no matter the test results. By this time, he had performed a vaginal sonogram and could actually physically see the cysts on my ovaries with the sonogram. So he diagnosed me, even though the blood test was saying I didn’t have it. This is what makes the difference between a doctor and a good doctor. He actually listened to me! I cannot tell you how many doctors over the years have just shoved me out of the office with a more nutritious eating plan.

I will not tell you I eat the healthiest. But, over the years, numerous times I have made many concerted efforts to eat right, exercise, and lose the weight. Every single time I failed. If I actually lost weight, I would gain it back almost immediately if I ate anything not on the plan. Or, there were even times when I gained weight rather than lost weight, while eating healthier and exercising. Yes, I do realize that muscle weighs more than fat, but I did not gain that much muscle mass in that small period of time. After a while, it becomes very discouraging. You see the scales going up. You are making better decisions in what you eat. And you have no real success. So why try? And you go ahead and eat the unhealthy stuff anyways. It becomes a vicious cycle.

To have someone listen to me, to know that maybe, just maybe, after all these years, there may be some answers, I was excited beyond belief! Yes, it means I am sick. Yes, it means I will have to take medication- possibly for the rest of my life- but hey, it is answers! I’ve gone 15 years or more with absolutely no answers and more frustrations.

It was interesting to find out that the medication that is used to treat PCOS is diabetes medication. Though I am not diabetic, PCOS affects the amount of insulin that is absorbed by your body. When I started the medication, I had a few small side effects but nothing major. It was during this time that my husband and I decided we wanted to go full-scale in trying to conceive a child. So in addition to the PCOS medication, I also started taking fertility medication. Once again, we got on a merry-go-around ride of up-and-down emotions.

After about a year on my medication for PCOS, it suddenly started making me violently ill. My doctor changed my medication and I was on this medication with no problems at all for almost 2 years. Then I started having problems again. I was still taking the fertility drugs as well.

The fertility medication had to be taken at a certain time each month- depending on when your cycle starts. After you finish the medication, you have to go into the doctor’s office to have a sonogram. Depending on what the sonogram shows depends on what you do next. If the follicles are a certain size, you are ready to proceed. If they are not to a certain size, you have to wait a day or so, and go have another sonogram done.

Add to this that your sex-life is no longer determined by when the mood strikes you and your spouse, you now watch the calendar. You count days. You know when you “have” to have sex in order to conceive. It does not make for a romantic setting, to say the least.  While my husband and I have always had a very healthy sex life with no complaints on either side, it became a dreaded thing when we had to schedule sex for the sole purpose of having a child. The enjoyment seems to disappear when you both know that in the back of your mind you are wondering if this is going to be the time you are finally successful.

Studies have proven that the most sexual organ of our body is our mind. If our mind is not there, then you are simply going through the motions. I never truly understood this until we had to schedule our love life. While previously, a phone-call inviting a noon-time rendezvous was very exciting, it now became a burden for both of us. It was not at all that we did not enjoy being with each other anymore. We both just knew that the purpose of our love-making was very specific during these appointments.

Needles to say, this process becomes quite expensive very quickly. Most health insurance policies do not cover fertility treatments, so this comes out of your pocket. In less than 6 months we spent almost $10,000.

I have had people ask me why we have gone through so much to have children. If you are one of those people who are very blessed, and you can conceive without any difficulty, then there is no possible way you can understand. If you have not walked in these shoes, there is no way you can know the emotional agony.

When my husband proposed to me I told him there was no way I could marry him, because I knew there was a big possibility I would not be able to have children due to all my medical problems. He is the most genuine, most matter-of-fact, most black-and-white view of things people I’ve ever met. I had seen him interact with children, and I had heard him talk about spending time with his nieces and nephews, so I knew he loved children. I still tease him to this day that I think he wanted to be a father before he wanted to be a husband.

When I told him that I did not know if I could have children, his response was that there is always adoption. That thought had never occurred to me with him, because it was not an option at all in my first marriage.

Even with the thought that we could adopt a child, I still saw it as impossible because we are not wealthy people. By this point we had spent well over $12,000 or more in our quest to become parents. I knew that adoptions were not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

One of every little girl’s dreams for me had been shattered. I was not going to be a mommy. Or… was I? Sometimes things are not always as they seem.

Little did I know that lives were about to take a dramatic turn.

____________________

The purpose of this series:  Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

The next chapter in this series: A Missed Message

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

Who Hears The Voice Of The Children?

To say that our Foster Care system is broken is a gross understatement. Whether it is the actual Child Protective Service agency, the individual case workers, the judges deciding the cases, foster parents, or the law itself is hard to pinpoint. I would venture to say it is most likely all of these factors combined.

My main question is this: who hears the voice of the children? Or more especially, who speaks for the children? It should be all of the people above: CPS, case workers, foster parents, judges and the law.

But more often than not, no one is taking that position.

We have judges that care more about the rights of the “parents” than the rights of the voiceless children.

You are probably asking yourself why the Foster Care system is something I care so much about. Am I a product of “The System”? No, I was never in Foster Care. However, all five of my children were. Please note that I said “were”. Thankfully, we have made it to the other side of the Foster Care system and our adoptions were finalized on all 5 of our children the summer of 2009.

Through our journey to have a family, my husband and I learned more than I ever would have imagined about the Foster Care System. When we started the process I wanted one child. My husband talked me into committing to adopting two children. One day in prayer God spoke to my heart and told me He was preparing us to have five children. I literally laughed out loud at God. Just a note of warning for you…. Don’t ever laugh at God!

Our journey is amazing- one I would not change for anything in this world! Yes, there have been many tears shed through this process. There have been many broken hearts. But there have also been countless blessings on this journey.

We have been asked if we plan to adopt any more. I do not have plans for that, but I leave that decision to God. He knows the plans He has for me and my husband (Jeremiah 29:11).

I have also been told that I cannot save the world.

I agree. I can’t save the world- only Jesus can do that! However, I know that I can change the world! I believe God has a plan to use me and my husband- our journey- His story lived out through our lives- to shine the light of truth on the atrocities that go on in the Foster Care System.

I am committed to giving a voice to the voiceless. These children have no one to be their voice. Oh yes, there are the occasional CPS Case Workers, judges, foster parents, teachers, or other people who have come into the lives of these children. But all too often these children “slip through the cracks” of the system.

One day it is my goal to stand before Congress and be the voice for these children. Laws need to be changed. Accountability needs to be set in place for anyone who has contact with these children that have been entrusted to the care of the state. This system is broken and someone MUST stand up and demand that it be fixed!

As of September 30, 2009, there were 423,773 children in foster care. This is the latest official number available. (Source: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report17.htm )

Currently, there are approximately 115,000 children in the United States Foster Care system waiting to be adopted. (Source: http://www.adoptuskids.org/resourceCenter/aboutTheChildren.aspx )

These statistics are astounding to me!

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. So through the pain and anguish, heartache and anger of our journey, the joy is most definitely worth it! And in the process a passion has been lit inside my soul to be a voice for the hundreds of thousands of children who I cannot bring home and adopt.

As a Conservative leaning Libertarian I am often disgusted and appalled at the Liberal agenda. The common argument is that Conservatives have no heart for the poor and needy. Liberals argue that because as a Conservative I want to cut the Federal Budget to the barest minimum I have no heart. I would challenge anyone who says these things to stop expecting the government to help the needy and step up and help them yourself! If you truly care so much about those in need, show them you care, do not “trust” the government to take care of the needy! And as you can see from the statistics there are many lives that need help! Where are all those bleeding heart liberals? These children need all of us to speak up for them and take action! This is our future we are talking about! 

I invite you to come along on this journey with me. It does not matter to me if you are Conservative, Liberal, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, straight or gay. If you dare to follow me on this journey, prepare yourself. At times you will be angry. Other times you will cry. Occasionally, you will smile, or even laugh. However, those times are rare in “The System”.

I will share our family story so that you will have a small glimpse into the darkness that truly exists. I pray that God will allow His Light to shine through me- our story- to change the world for these voiceless children. My prayer is that through our lives you will add your voice to mine. These children need to be heard!

Will you join me? Together, we can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children!

____________________

The story begins: Dreams Of A Little Girl Shattered… Or Are They?

Foster Care: A Broken System- Video

An Open Letter To All Senators, Congressmen and Governors

Recent Entries »