The Affect Fostering has on my Bio Kids

The Affect Fostering Has on my Bio Kids - Becoming a Foster Care Family - Care Providers

When I entered the world of Fostering, I knew it would impact my bio kids, I wasn’t naive. But they were. I tried to prepare them the best I could, but they still had fantasies of new friends sleeping over every night; they thought it was going to be fun.

Now, they don’t think it’s fun.

 

It has been two months since our first placements — a 7 year old boy and a now 6 year old girl — came into our home. My children have realized it wasn’t what they thought it would be. Here is a list of some of the things we have learned through our first placements. I will admit, most of it is negative. That is their current view and we are still working on the adjustment to our “new life” as my son calls it. We are a work in progress as a foster family. It may be the ages of the children, or just personality mixes. I’m not sure, and I know this won’t be true for all foster families with bio kids. I am sure some adjust much better than my kiddos are!

It isn’t like a sleepover

I think my two bio kids honestly thought it would be like having a sleepover with friends. A fun get together with playing and staying up late talking to each other from their bunk beds. The ‘not sleeping well’ part of a sleepover scenario may be true… but that is about it.

One of the children has been diagnosed with a few things that make getting to sleep hard, and sometimes loud. After a month of battles and everyone not being able to sleep, our placement was prescribed medication to help.

However, my son is a light sleeper, so it has been a bit rough with how this affects his sleep. I am now looking into renovating my basement to add more bedrooms and a playroom (In our area bio kids can have basement bedrooms as long as it is to code, but the foster children have to be on the same floor as me).

Sharing with a foster sibling is different than sharing with a friend

I was surprised at this one, but when I think about it, really should not have been.  The kids that came into care did not bring much more than a bag of clothes. They didn’t have toys or books from their house. They came with a pack that all the kids in Care receive which included some markers, a colouring book, toothbrushes, etc. Similar to the package I made up for them.

We had discussed this as a family before taking placements, this was an easy one to talk about (or so I thought). They understood the kids were coming with nothing and that they would need to share and we would purchase more toys along the way, but I wasn’t going to buy “separate” toys for the foster children to play with. All the toys were for everyone in the house.

That lasted a couple weeks until a toy accidentally got broken (total fluke, wasn’t on purpose). Then the fights began about who could play with what. My son became very protective of his toys, creating a “do not play with” section on his shelf of toys that were “so special” to him that he didn’t want to be touched.  His space was being invaded and he needed to take control… that is what I take out of it.  Things have quieted down in this area and it is getting better over time. Also, the kids have picked up some of their toys from home when they went for visits, so that helped as well.

You’re not going to be friends with everyone

My two bio kids get a long very well. They aren’t the typical siblings who fight. They just click and play really well together and are friends. So, it was easy for them to assume it would be like that for other kids that came into the house. It isn’t. It isn’t ANYTHING like that. The boys don’t get a long and the girls have nothing in common. It has been a challenge to try to find common ground to help them form bonds. I continue to look for new ways to have them create things, or play together in a way that doesn’t result in a breakdown or tears. It’s definitely been interesting… and challenging.

You’re going to want to give up

Hard days are really hard. Exhausting, want to quit, hard. For me and for the kids. My bio kids have vented to me and broken down and admitted they are not enjoying fostering. I try to take that as an opportunity to teach them there are going to be things in life that make you want to quit; make you want to go the easy route, but we can’t just give up because of a hard day. Not every day it hard and there is a reason behind what we are doing. There have been many late night talks (well, late for them… around 8pm after the foster kiddos are asleep) about what they are feeling, and what we can do to make things better. Sometimes there isn’t something that is easily fixed, sometimes it is just showing them I am there to support them and they can vent to me whenever they want about how they are feeling. That is how the idea of finishing my basement came about. One night my son was telling me the house was too small and he couldn’t get away for quiet time because everyone followed him.  I am lucky to work for a great company that is in the construction industry, so I have many people to help me plan renovations and find the best (and cheapest) solutions on that end. I am looking into adding 1 or 2 bedrooms and a playroom down there, so hopefully that will work out and be ready by the time our next placements come.

You never know what is going to happen next

Our first week was interesting. It was a constant “what next” feeling in our house. From me having the flu our first day with placements, to head lice (my children have never had lice, so it was a brand new experience for me!), to one of the children eating an ice pack, we just didn’t know what to expect next.  Luckily it has calmed down a bit, but we are now in the “what next” phase of wondering what is next for these children. Will they go home as predicted in the 6-8 month period (probably not), or will they be placed with kin (up in the air right now), or will they stay here much longer than originally thought (a chance). Who knows.


For the other foster families with older bio kids, what have you found to help them adjust to the “new life”?

~Meesh

 

 

 

We are Approved!

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Today I received my approval to become a foster parent! 

I am still in a state of shock… even though it has been over a year since I started the process, it is still an “is this really happening” moment! I can’t wait to share the news with my children!

So now, let me back up a couple days. Earlier this week my Home Study worker emailed me a couple questions. The questions she sent me were previously asked in my Home Study, but she wanted to add to the response she had written down.

Then today, she emailed me to say her Supervisor had one question about how I would introduce a new partner into the mix if I date or am in a relationship when I have foster children. I had thought about this before since I have to worry about that with my own children. Although I feel I am years away from that happening, I answered the best I could.

About an hour later she emailed me back congratulating me on being approved and sent me a copy of my report to review.  Once I reviewed it (I had no changes), I sent it back. Her administrative assistant will now format it and then send it off to be assigned a Resource Worker.

Yay!  I am approved! I am getting so close!

Next step:  Wait for the Resource Worker assigned to me to contact me (estimated to be next week or early the following week). Once they contact me, we set up a time to meet within 30 days. From there, I am open to placements!

I am hoping to have our first placement(s) by Christmas!

Thank you for following in my journey! I have now completed the process to become a Foster Parent!

Waiting on Approval (Still)

Waiting on Approvals - Foster Care - Becoming a Foster Parent - MommaMeesh Blog

I am still in the waiting process. It has been almost two months, which was the estimated time line for my approval, however I have not even received my Home Study report to review yet.

I touched base quick with my Home Study worker last week and she hadn’t got to my report yet due to a backlog of people ahead of me. She is swamped with Home Studies, which is great, but also frustrating.

I am hoping within the next week or so I will receive my report to review. It then goes back and gets approval from her supervisor.

The next waiting game will be when I am assigned a Worker. After my official approval they have 7 days to assign a worker to me. From there, she has 30 days to come meet me. I am really hoping that is a large time frame and it is actually much sooner… but the way things are going, I am expecting it to be the full estimated time.

My hope is still to receive a placement in August, however, each day I don’t receive my report, I am losing hope for that.

I will update as soon as I get approval 🙂

 

Home Study #2 – Personal Interview

Home Study 2 - Personal Interview (Becoming a Foster Parent Process) Mommameesh-wordpress-com

A few days ago I had my second Home Study appointment with my Home Study Worker. She came to my house for an interview with me. We did not go through my house like in the first visit, this was just to go over a list of questions. Some Home Study workers complete this at their office; however, my Worker prefers to come to the home for all of the appointments.

The time booked for this appointment is 2 hours, but we were done in just over an hour.

Discussion about Possible Placements

We went over the checklists and forms relating to the types of children I am willing to accept into my home. I talked with her about the age range to get her opinion on the range and she agreed I should stay with the 4-7 age range to keep my son older than the placements. She said some people do not stick to that, but she recommends it. I am also open to taking a sibling group, but it has to be one girl, one boy due to bedroom arrangements and they have to both fall in the 4-7 age range, so that could be tricky.

We also went over the types of behaviours I could/could not accept and why. Most of my “could not” accepts were based on known behaviours that could affect my own children. She was happy to see I had some “could not” accepts as she said some people say they will accept anything, but that usually isn’t truly the case. She let me know being open at this stage is good, but also being honest and sharing things you are hesitant about is what the workers like to hear.

Some of the items on the checklist included special/higher needs and whether I would be willing to accept. My response was not a yes, no or maybe, but more of an explanation. I am willing to take a wide variety of children, but I require:

  • information on the needs and history (as much as they know at the time)
  • further knowledge/education/training available for me, if needed
  • expected amount of appointments that could affect my work since I work full time outside of the home

For most of the items on the list I told her it would really depend on the case. I can’t say a Yes or No for a lot, because each case will be so different. If it is a medical need such as diabetes, I am open to that. If it is a child with FASD, I am also open to that as well, but require more training as I have no experience with it and need more information specific to the child (behaviours, etc.).

She let me know about some training that is available once I am approved, which is great! I intend to take a few courses through CAS about different behaviours and ways to work with children with different needs. Also, she let me know that any courses I have taken in the past three years that relate to parenting I can submit to my worker to put in my file. If I take courses approved (relevant to parenting) it will give me “credits.” Having more training will result in being a more specialized foster parent (higher number of credits), which also entitles me to a higher daily rate. So far I have taken two online courses through the Foster Parent Society of Ontario (Life Books and Safeguarding Your Family) and also attended Mindfulness seminars.

From that she asked if I would be willing to learn special skills such as ASL (sign language). This is something that is very interesting to me, I would love to learn a new language such as ASL, so I am going to look into it. My only concern is the time commitment to learn special skills such as ASL and the fact I am not in a city (so to attend classes, it takes more time to account for travel into the city and takes away time from the kids/requires babysitting arrangements).

Personal Interview

The main questions she asked in this appointment were about my relationships with my family and my ex-husband and about my past. I have a pretty boring, “normal” history and a close relationship with my parents so it went pretty quickly. I also had to list all of my jobs I’ve had since college. I basically just read her my LinkedIn profile since she needed the company name and time frame for each position I have held. She also asked if I had ever been fired from a job (I haven’t, and it seems kind of odd to ask, but I guess going into why a person may have been fired from a job could tell them more about a person).

Some of the personal questions she asked me were:

  • What is your relationship like with your parents now? How often do you see them?
  • What is your relationship like with your siblings now? How often do you see them?
  • What was your relationship with your parents growing up?
  • How did your parents discipline you as a child?
  • Did you suffer any abuse (physical, emotional)?
  • How is your relationship with your ex-husband now?
  • Why did you split from your husband?
  • How often do your children see their father?
  • Will their father be involved with the foster children at all?
  • Do you foresee any problems with the children not wanting to go see their father if the foster child stays with you while they go there?

That isn’t the complete list, but some other questions spawned off of the above questions. Those are the main ones I remember.

What Comes Next?

My next appointment is in about a week and a half. In that appointment we will be going over the items outstanding from the first Home Study SAFE Assessment (such as checking to be sure I mounted my TV on the wall, and that my water heater is turned down) and then doing an interview about my parenting style.

My worker explained it takes up to two months for some approvals because the Workers take notes during the appointments, usually by hand, then they have to rewrite them in electronic form for their supervisor and the applicants to review. The time it takes to enter all of her notes into the electronic document takes the most time. Now though, she is trying out using her laptop during the interviews to speed up the process. It makes complete sense to me, so I was on board. It was her first time trying out her new method and she was a bit worried it would make it more impersonal or distracting but I think it worked fine. Hopefully that means a faster approval once my last appointment is finished.

Next steps:

  • April 21, 2016 – Final Home Study Appointment
  • Home Study Worker writes up all information from all three visits
  • Copy of Home Study report is sent to me to review before being finalized
  • Once the report is finalized, her supervisor will do a final review
  • Final approval is received from her supervisor

Best case scenario: May approval
More realistic scenario: June approval since they are so busy with Home Studies right now


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Becoming a Foster Parent – My Timeline

Becoming a Foster Parent - Timeline - Process - Application to Approval - Home Study Assessments

I thought I would share the timeline of my process so far. At the beginning, they said it could take anywhere from 9-12 months. Due to long waits between appointments it is looking more like 12-13 months from beginning to end to be officially approved as a Foster Parent. The image above as well as the points below lay out what has happened over the past year.


 

My Process to Date: May 2015 to April 2016

May 7, 2015  – First inquiry to CAS about becoming a foster parent and how to go through training

July 20, 2015 – CAS Worker visited my home to discuss becoming a foster parent, to give more information and a copy of the application package

On July 26th, they confirmed they received my application package and booked me in for PRIDE training. I was then in the waiting stage to start training (about 2 months away) and be assigned a Home Study Worker.

September 23, 2015 – Home Study worker assigned (once PRIDE training starts they assign a home study worker to go through the rest of the approval process with you)

September 29, 2015 – December 1, 2015 – PRIDE TRAINING – 9 Sessions (3 hours per session for a total of 27 Hours training). I attended Tuesday evening sessions. They also had a Saturday option which you could take for 4 Saturdays in a row in November, then the final session was with the Tuesday night group on December 1. Since I would rather give up a Tuesday night then four full day Saturdays, I went with the Tuesday night group. The end date of both groups was the same.

October 19, 2015 – INFORMATION GATHERING STAGE – I received an email stating I had entered the next phase. I was sent policies to review, I had to submit my police and medical checks, complete a Resource Family Profile and was also sent a question sheet to complete after Training. Online training for AODA was required at this time as well (Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act – it is a requirement in Ontario to complete this training)

November 3, 2015 – Confirmation from CAS that my AODA training was complete and Car Seat training session is booked. I had to attend a mandatory car seat training session which I completed in January.

January 4, 2016 – ASSESSMENT PHASE (PRIDE Training is complete!). First Home Study Appointment Confirmed

January 15, 2016 – Home Study Assessment #1 Completed

January 19, 2016 – Received a report about my first Home Study Assessment and follow up items from the SAFE Checklist that we had gone over.

March 2, 2016 – Home Study Assessment#2  Rescheduled for April 7, due to weather and bad road conditions

April 7, 2016 – Home Study Assessment #2

April 21, 2016 – Home Study Assessment #3 (FINAL Appointment!)

Once my final appointment is complete I enter the “waiting for official approval” stage. I have been told this could take from a week or two up to two months, depending on what CAS needs and what children I have filled out as willing to accept.

Estimated Date to be an Approved Foster Parent: May/June 2016


 

I am going to be honest: I am frustrated, it has been a lot of waiting. My Home Study worker said her and the other Home Study workers are swamped with assessments, which is great since they say there is a need for more foster parents, but also frustrating because they are in need of foster parents and I am here waiting.


What did your timeline look like? Or are you just starting yours? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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Fostering with Biological Children

Fostering with Biological Children - How Can I be Better Prepared - Foster Parenting Blog - MommaMeesh

I have had a while to think about what is coming in the near future. As I stated in my last post, I have been going through the official process of becoming a Foster Parent since last May (almost 11 months now).  The longer I wait for the next step, the more scenarios I think of and the more questions I have; especially when it comes to my two bio children and the impact on them.

Initially, I was set at the age range of 4-7. It is a small range, but I need a school aged child since I work full time outside the home and I had wanted a child younger than my youngest to keep the birth order (my youngest is 7, turning 8 in July; my oldest just turned 10).

However, the more I think about it, is it really that important to keep the birth order and only take in children younger than my youngest? Some say yes, it is very important, while others have said they did not limit the ages to keep the birth order and have not had any issues. Also, some say older children may have the maturity/development of a younger child, so age really isn’t as important as other factors.  How do I prepare my children and how do I decide the best age range to accept?

In my training and when I asked about this on our last night of training at the Panel Night (we had foster families and children who had gone through the system talk and answer questions) the answer was always the same, “it depends on the family and the children.” It seems like a lot of questions that you have before fostering can only be answered by experiencing the scenarios. Some families have done well with kids of all ages, others say they need to stick to younger children because of their bio children.

I think training should touch more on having bio children already in the home who have to welcome new children and the impact to them. I feel unprepared. At my next Home Study Assessment appointment (coming up in a few days) I plan on discussing this more with my worker and finding out if there are resources available such as additional training that covers bio siblings or groups I can join. Once I am a foster parent there are resources available, including a foster parent mentor, but until then do I just try to make the best decisions without the resources?

One of my thoughts is that I may try respite care at first with a wider range of children and see how my own children react to different age groups. However, I am not sure if this would give a good idea as it is just respite and they would know it was only for a few days.

Some things I am wondering about are:
(feel free to comment if you have experience with this! Keep in mind I am only fostering at this point, not fostering with a view to adopt)

  • How much say should my bio children have when it comes to placements?
    • Right now they are excited and want children their age to play with, but I think having children the same age might cause more conflict (and competition between siblings)
    • If I receive a call about a potential placement, should I include my children in the decision to accept or not or just fill them in with information once I accept a placement? (I have a feeling this could cause issues if I give them too much control, but want to include them to some extent)
  • Should we keep the birth order and limit our openness to only younger children?
    • If I do not keep the birth order and accept older children, how do I mitigate any issues this may cause?
  • Are there support groups or mentors I can contact who have bio children who can discuss their experiences?
  • If my child, or both children, do not enjoy fostering do I give it up, or is there a transition phase expected?
    • I am worried about my son deciding he doesn’t like it, or causing stress to him. He is a very sensitive child and I worry about his reaction to some aspects of fostering.
    • Are there additional resources for bio children to help them become prepared for welcoming foster children?
  • I am thinking of opening up to sibling groups – how will this affect my bio sibling group?

Basically I want to know: How can I better prepare myself and my children to accept foster children?

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Good News and Bad News

I’ll start with the bad news, since that is the reason for this post… my second Home Study appointment that was scheduled for today has been postponed until April 7.

We had a bit of a snow storm come in the area last night with freezing rain, then snow, which made for a messy morning. My Home Study worker called and said she would have to reschedule our appointment until April 7 (her next available opening). I am about 45 minutes from the city where she is coming from, so I understand she didn’t want to drive out here today.

I will admit, I was very upset (and angry and disappointed and every other emotion), but I am trying to look at the good news and positive side to it… I will have more time to prep my house and get things finished. And, I can post more about my prep here! I have been slacking on the posting since I was trying to get things set up for today’s appointment and be extra ready to try and get things moved along quicker.

I am working on my patience, and the funny thing is, this morning I put on my “Love is Patient” quote necklace… guess I am being tested on my patience!

More posts coming soon!