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Jan 19, 2008

The damn story...

I know that this life story of ours is still not complete. I'm finding that the story needs more solitary time and attention to details. And that, is hard to find in my life. My blogging is in fits and starts or it explodes out. Not a whole lot of planning goes into it.

I've also been stuck because the orderly side of me says Jack's story is next because he is the next in line, birth order-wise. And then there are the kids who entered our lives and left... and then there are Abe and Mia. Their story is the one that is calling me.

I will attempt them next.

If you've missed the other parts, here are the links.
Back in May, I wrote a post about our alternative lifestyle. It prompted a question which I started to answer here, here, here, here.
and most recently, here.


It occurs to me that the reason Gabriel Allred's story caught my interest so strongly is that we were in a similar situation with Abe and Mia. It's not easy.
But, lets start at the beginning.

The desire to do foster care started with me. I take the blame. Not that that leaves Käri off the hook. We have always done everything together. Every decision belongs to both of us, but the germ was my fault.

In eighth grade I decided I wanted to grow up and help crazy kids. I was inspired by my teacher. Miss Carroll had a fabulous way of disciplining and dealing with some of my classmates while caring at the same time. Plus, I have always felt that I could have easily been one of the crazy kids, taken a wrong turn and been in need of serious help. Why I didn't, I'm not really sure. Or why I felt that way... Who knows?

My journey towards helping kids started in college, where I took criminal justice classes, thinking that working in juvenile hall might be the job I was looking for. I volunteered with a local agency in different environments with a variety of populations. Elderly, physically disabled, a care facility for severely Autistic young adults, a psychiatric hospital for adults and kids (my favorite unit was the deaf, male youth unit), an environmental education school, and the "regular" classroom.

I took a bit of a turn when I discovered child development. I was intrigued by learning about human development and then observing children and seeing it in action. The child development program was thorough and a fabulous education. What better way to help kids than to understand where they were coming from, at least developmentally. My desire to work with crazy kids never abated, but I had decided that working in juvenile hall was not the answer for me.

Directly after college, I worked in a group home for severely emotionally disturbed girls in Oakland Ca. I was hired on as a co-manager of the group home because I had a BA. I was fortunate to work with a group of people who had been doing this work for a number of years. I learned a lot from these folks. It was emotionally draining work with small rewards. There were also some political battles related to class, race, education, and age- also good learning. It was a short stint since we moved about six months into it.

Then, life happened...

...and eventually, I spent eight years working with severely emotionally disturbed kids ages 5-12. These children came to us from biological, adoptive, and foster homes, psychiatric hospitals, reservation life and the street. Most of them had been involved with "the system" in some capacity for years. Drug and alcohol addiction, horrible physical and sexual abuse, incredible neglect, prostitution, poverty, mental illness, inconsistency, multiple homes, and lack of support, all played a part in their history.

In the end, and what eventually brought us to foster care is the many ways the flawed system failed these kids. I knew as foster parents, we could commit to a child for the length of time they needed our care. In fulfilling that one goal, we thought we could at least provide a stable, consistent, environment where the child would be a part of our family- not "the foster kid". Many foster homes I had been exposed to would request a child moved out of their care when they went on vacation or for reasons unknown. Too many children had ten to fifteen placements, or more. Sometimes, making a commitment to a child doesn't turn out as planned and their issues are overwhelming or damaging to the rest of the family. Sometimes the kids are too sick or damaged to be cared for in a foster home. I recognize and accept that. However, this was not always the case. And that part, the lack of commitment to the child by the foster parent, was the part we thought we could help.

Having been exposed to the issues of older children who have been involved with the system for years, we chose to only have younger children in our care. Grace and Gus were not quite two and Leo was five when we started. Our first placement was A. He was four, soon to turn five and, to date, the oldest child we have accepted into our care. He was relatively fresh to the system, and while in the custody of his grandmother, had been placed with us while he was in the care of his birth mother who was using when he was removed. (that's a little confusing, I know) A. was with us for only a few months- until grandma jumped the hoops to show she was the custodial parent and A. had only been visiting his birth mother during his removal. (We still bump into him around town- still in his grandmother's care and doing well.)

Our second placement was R. A sweet, smiling, huge, baby boy who was waiting for the red tape to clear so he could be placed with an adoptive auntie in Southern California. She had already adopted his two sisters and R. had been on the run with his birth mom until social services caught up with them and placed R. in our care, temporarily. He was also with us for a few short months, from about eight months to just shy of his first birthday.

One week after Grace and Gus turned two, we received a call about a set of twins. We picked up Abe and Mia from the local hospital on September 7th, 2002. Their birth mother was already gone, AMA, and they were having their pictures taken when we arrived. Mia was dressed in a too big, over starched, terribly scratchy, dress and Abe in a too big, mini-suit, complete with tie. They looked uncomfortable and incredibly small. Every parental instinct kicked in, and while technically these were not our children, per se, we immediately took control of the situation. The uncomfortable clothes came off after the picture was complete- we helped them pose, of course- and assuming the birth mother had dressed them for the occasion stowed the clothes away for safekeeping. The social worker had not arrived from the county to complete the paperwork, but the hospital social worker and nurses were aware that the babies were to be place in our care, and let us take care of the babies until the county social worker arrived. Käri ran to the consignment store down the street to get them an outfit to come home in- our first lesson in -sometimes birth parents don't bring a diaper bag to the hospital...". The hospital refused to let the babies come home in the hospital t-shirts- whatever... We did have car seats and blankets! Eventually, papers were signed, minimal medical information given and they were ours to care for.

Abe and Mia were premature. Not to unusual for twins, and while tiny, they were released from the hospital at 36 hours old, lungs were okay. Mia was born vaginally and weighed in at 5.8. Abe was an emergency c-section (stuck, somehow) and was 4.7. They had received no prenatal care and birth mom admitted to occasional meth use; alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana use were also disclosed. Apparently, birth mom was unaware that she was having twins until a few weeks before their birth, when she came into the hospital for dehydration issues. With no prenatal care and mom's drug use, their actual due date was a bit fuzzy, but the doctor estimated that they were about 4.5 weeks premature.

to be continued... I tried for an hour to post a picture of the twins at three days old- couldn't get the damn scanner to work...!

5 comments:

~*~Hallie~*~ said...

I'll be checking for updates, I love reading about your family!:)

AnnaChronism said...

Hello
I love reading your blog, enjoy the honest writing

Cheers !

Velma said...

Tricia...Thanks so much for your story. I'm the divorced mother of 2, grandmother of 7, and former foster parent, both officially and unofficially, of many. I check your blog frequently and enjoy all of your stories, but I especially look forward to these installments, and they never disappoint! Keep up the great work with your amazing family.

blahblahblah said...

Oh hi Miss Melma.

Yes Tricia, I love you too but it is mean to not finish such an amazing story.

I can't wait to see the pictures of Abe and Mia.

Can I ask a stupid question? Maybe you should email me and I can ask it so I don't look a total boob to those I don't know. Hello again, Miss Melma.
xx
Cole

Jess said...

Thanks for the story... I'm waiting anxiously to hear the next installment!

Happy MLK Day.

J