Fosterhood in NYC

Apr 24

**The Part That Kills Me The Most**

As in, it happened a year ago and I was so hurt and embarrassed I didn’t even blog about it.  I was at the foster agency and I bumped into a case worker that I’d had limited, but friendly interaction with and she was saying how good it is to see me and-

"It’s really a shame ACS thought you were too close to Snap’s mom and wouldn’t let him go back to you."

I almost passed out.  I never knew that.  I’m guessing I wasn’t told because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  I always assumed it was a mindless, bureaucratic mistake that Snap was bounced to a new foster home.  To imagine that a case worker purposefully prevented him from returning to me because I followed their model and built a relationship with the mom? I basically blocked it out until today.  It hurt so much.

And they make it sound like I was out partying with Snap’s mom or something.  You know, I’ve never met up with the woman outside of an institutional setting. Rehab, psych hospital, jail.  Repeat, rehab, psych hospital, jail.  I was and am the only person she invites to rehab ‘family days’.  And then to say Snap’s brother’s hearing that I, and Meghan aren’t ‘kin’ enough?  When you haven’t talked to any of us?

The letter my foster agency’s homefinding director wrote to ACS trying to locate Snap and vouching for my ‘good standing’ is actually the last page of his lifebook. 

Okay, I’m done now.  Going to make burritos for Sandy and Clementine’s lunch tomorrow.  I swear they eat more than teenage boys do.

I left Snap’s former attorney a long message.  She’s been in that courthouse for decades- I’d love to see her raise some hell.

*Update: 2 minutes later——- or rather, just call in some behind-the-scenes phone calls and get Snap’s brother moved to Meghan already.  We all know that’s how it really works most of the time anyway.

oooooooh, another idea

DUH, Snap’s law guardian for 5 years.  The mean lady who I hold partially responsible for not ensuring that Snap came back to me when he re-entered foster care instead of being bounced to another foster home and another foster agency.  She’s the one I gave the lifebook to and she gave it to the adoptive mom- so, she has a conscious in her somewhere.

You know, I do believe that if she would have done her job, both Snap and his brother would be together as my two children.  I had Jacket at the time, but I wouldn’t have said no to Snap.

So, she owes Snap this one.  The good thing is she’s crazy fierce.  Like stomping in her stilettos and screaming at the other attorneys in the hallway fierce. I’m going to find her to get this done.  Searching for her number now.

more on Snap’s newborn brother and meghan

first, meghan told me that kids usually aren’t allowed in court and that every family court has a nursery.  I was all “SERIOUSLY?  What kind of holy hell place is that!?”  I can’t even picture court nursery.  Please people, send me more information.

Like, how do you staff it?  How do you know if you’re going to have 5 kids or 100?  Is there like a 20 page medical release form you have parents sign?  Are there abuse allegations every freaking day?  Is there a whole staff that just investigates the nursery abuse allegations 24/7?  Do kids frequently get abandoned there?

Meghan had her visit at the foster agency again with Snap’s brother.  She asked why it was supervised, no answer.  But that’s no surprise, they literally aren’t talking to her.  Like high schoolers they glare at her.  She got a lecture about their right to terminate a visit if she was late when she wasn’t late.  She signed-in 5 minutes late because she was talking to the foster parents (who sound cool and totally okay with handing him over to Meghan) in the waiting room. 

So to recap:  The judge has twice told the foster agency (that Snap’s brother is at) to “clear” Meghan.  The judge ordered a special hearing for next week to ensure this was done.  But other than a 30 minute visit to her home prior to the last hearing, they aren’t speaking to her.  They aren’t responding to emails.  They are literally just staring her down.  A long time ago a higher-up invited her to a meeting, gave a date but no time.  The day came and crickets.  What could be MORE MADDENING?  The judge, mom’s attorney and law guardian are all in favor of moving Snap’s brother to Meghan.

If the foster agency doesn’t want her, why don’t they just say?  Why don’t they just fake their way through the vetting process at least?  Meghan thinks court next week will be 1 of 2 scenarios:

1. they have a smoking gun (which, good luck with that one)

2. they’ll be all “who, me? we’re cool, meghan’s great- we didn’t know we were the hold up.  let’s do this, yay!” (*sarcasm inserted by me, meghan’s not sarcastic at all)

All I can say is Meghan is amazing and we need more people like her.  I would never be strong enough.  I’d be convinced that they have that photo of my tits I instant messaged to my boyfriend in 2006 or something.

OOOhhhh, and regarding sibling visits.  I asked the case worker long ago and she said she was working on it. I also made sure to emphasize that sibling visits were started and maintained in the 3 months Snap’s brother was in the NICU least they think his adoptive mom wouldn’t be willing. Snap’s adoptive mom said though that no one from the foster agency has called her. 

Below the belt?

Have Snap’s [adoptive] mom bring him to the next court hearing about his newborn brother- Is that manipulative? Or, is it empowering him for his one chance in life to advocate that his brother be placed with kin (Meghan) so that he can maintain a relationship?

And while I’m all ACS this, and ACS that…

A friendly note to ACS, when 1/5 of your own FAQ page about becoming a foster parent is (*link below) I applied to be a foster parent and have been waiting for a long time to hear back” it looks bad.  And it wouldn’t be so awful if you weren’t simultaneously dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into subway ads recruiting foster parent.

People applying to be foster parents feel rejected EASILY. Like, O.M.G. they saw my ironic Sugarscape sheets and now they think I’m a child molester- dejection.  Delays in response for whatever reason are taken personally.  You’re asking private New Yorkers to open be incredibly vulnerable and hand over all control over their lives. And stories of rejection spread.  Who doesn’t want to prevent feelings of rejection? It would be so interesting to see a 6-degrees-of-rejection-to-Kevin-Bacon money saved/wasted of subway ads vs. dejected, would-be, AWESOME foster parents who never get called back from the foster agencies they’re applying to.

God, I’m getting preachy.

*My links section isn’t working, it’s here: http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/fostercare/fosterfaq.asp#applied

bad timing

I forgot my cell phone at home.  Asia is out today and her mom has the girls.  Sandy has a visit and a new case worker.  Recipe for disaster.  I called the case worker supervisor and clearly and slowly gave his voicemail my work number for today.  Fingers crossed there isn’t any drama.

Group Amplifies Complaints by Foster-Care Parents, Kids - CityLimits.org -

Remember when I said I didn’t want to become one of ‘those’ angry, fighting foster parents?  That I just wanted to focus on a kid or two and do arts and crafts (and in case you missed it, Andrew from fosterwee chimed in with the same sentiment)? Well, Melissa A. Wade @honeybee22274 your tweet with this link isn’t helping!  ;)

A few comments I can’t resist:

1. I don’t think there’s a “Christian Guardian” foster agency but there is a “Catholic Guardian” one.

2.  There’s a way to file a complaint with ACS!?  Why didn’t I know this?? 

3.  I did actually file a complaint by calling 311 (because they seriously get shit done) for ACS failing to explore identified kinship for Snap’s brother (aka Meghan) and ridiculously I was called by ACS and asked “What are you expecting?” I responded “For someone to look into it” and she said she wouldn’t have access.  I asked if there was a better way for me to voice my concern and she said “chain of command”.  I asked her if she’s ever seen that work and she remained silent.  Supervisors cover their underlings asses, that’s their job.  And seriously, chain of command would be like 20, 30 people?  And then what?  How does the city bounce a complaint about ACS back to ACS?

4.  And what is this one!?!? "According to the 2014 Mayor’s Management Report on city agencies, the agency responded in two weeks to nearly all of the emails and letters they received—a significant improvement over 2011, when ACS responded in two weeks’ time to 46 percent of emails and 45 percent of letters."  First, the year is unclear.  Do they mean 2012? 2014?  Either way, I’ve got emails and letters from every single year with absolutely no response- but I’ll accept one now.  Better late than never!  ;)

5. Adding to #4- does this mean one of you got a response from the city when you wrote about Clementine’s original placement disaster?  I know about 100 people emailed but I didn’t hear of any response.  Would LOVE to know…

Apr 23

1st visit with Clementine’s siblings and family at foster agency since Runfostermama got them

Mom, dad and grandpa were sooooooo happy the kids were out of diapers.  They followed Runfostermama’s potty reward system she sent and at the end of the visit dad kept repeating again and again “You guys are doing a great job with the kids, thanks so much, great job”. 

I appreciate it so much because it’s so unusual.

I’m hoping we’re able to get visits in the community asap.  Something like putting the kids all in Saturday afternoon YMCA swim classes and then mom, dad, grandpa, whoever can come, cheer the kids on, have lunch in the lounge with us and make a day of it.

how could snap’s mom have done it differently?

i mean, besides being addicted to drugs… how could she have planned better for her new son?  private adoption was out because she wanted to see if the city would let her try to parent.  but she was clear on her back-up plan.  and her back-up to the back-up plan. 

could she have gotten an attorney before Snap’s brother was born and somehow have had control over where he was placed, even if it were to be a foster care placement?

i mean, it’s enough to make me think about getting something in writing, god forbid, if I go nuts and have my kids taken from me… maybe everyone needs one? like a living will guardianship thingy-a-document?

court and who’s who and who sits where

I’ve seen ACS attorneys function in 2 really different ways. The most common being the role of telling the foster agency what to do.  Following-up on judge’s orders, etc. In this capacity the foster agency staff see ACS as the big boss who makes or breaks their agency and job.

Then, there’s the ACS attorney whose view is “representing whatever my client, the foster agency, wants”.  Although, can a foster agency fire their ACS attorney?  I’m pretty sure it goes the other way around.

It’s a tandem relationship, no doubt, but these two perspectives have quite different outcomes.

When seated in court the birth family and birth parent attorneys are on one side and ACS and the foster agency are on the other.  Depending on the court they try to stick the attorney for the child in a neutral position which sometimes ends up being an awkward corner.  I NEVER KNOW WHICH SIDE TO SIT ON.  It’s like a wedding where you’re just there as the DJ’s date. 

Which side do you choose? I’ve sat on both sides, always as an unprepared deer in headlights, and whatever I choose I end up sitting as close to the aisle as possible to appear neutral.  Depending on the case, the ACS attorney may grab me and take me around the partition to sit at the table with them.  I cringe because it’s such a middle finger to the birth family.  I also slide my chair back away from the table a little, not that it helps.

Last time in court the judge actually said “Just the attorneys next week, the litigants don’t need to come”.  The mom and I looked at each other- are WE the litigants?  As in, this court thing is about US?  We were the only people in the room not attorneys.

Going to court as a foster parent is so complicated.

“Omg, you blogged about the north face camping, already signed up like two weeks ago before kids even got here.” — 6am text from Runfostermama

Apr 22

Up ruminating again about Snap’s brother and Meghan

I’m back to my "Why do i care post" about where Snap’s brother ends up.  Having his foster agency actively fight against the community-based kinship relationships I have built a la parent-to-parent model [to keep a family together and prevent the kids from being bounced to a bunch of different foster homes] means that so much of my past 5 years as a foster parent have been wasted.

All of the extra time and energy I’ve spent visiting Snap’s mom at Rikers Island, this psych hospital, that psych hospital, this mommy-and-me rehab, family days at this treatment program, middle of the night calls and taking Snap home on weekends even a year after he was returned to his mom- it’s all a waste if her babies continue to be placed with random strangers unnecessarily. 

It’s a slap in the face and it really, really hurts.  Not to mention it makes me look stupid.

If in foster parent training they would have told us to be polite but distant with birth parents while focusing on caring for the kids, I would have been all “that’s cool, no doubt this was decided by a lot of smart people and smart research”.  But no, that’s not what we were taught.

What percentage of child welfare workers in NYC have even ever seen the foster parent curriculum?

This is cool: State Parks and OCFS, with support from The North Face® and its national Explore Your Parks™ program, are offering overnight camping experiences to 135 foster families who are new to camping or looking to re-connect with nature. The $50 gift cards are available to foster families on a first-come, first-served basis. The promotion is good for two nights at a campsite at any one of the 66 New York State parks throughout the state from May 1 through September 30.

But no Runfostermama, I’m not taking the girls camping with you yet.  I can barely get them to stay in one room together, moreless one forest.  OCFS would first have to buy them GPS locator watches which would cost a bit more than the $50 gift card!

Runfostermama had to do another ER visit tonight. Sadly, as a former ACS worker she knows she has to get every minor rash responded to and documented— especially in these first few weeks of trust building with the foster agency.

But that’s really just the preface to explain why the kids were out past their bedtime so that I can share this text:

"Yep will text as soon as I carry three sleeping kids from car. Carrying all simultaneous. Got this down."

She’s so freaking amazing.