When I had my second daughter, the complications were numerous; so the doctors kindly advised me to have my tubes tied. I had to wait 30 days and get a special waiver because I was only 23 when I had it done. I did end up regretting it only two years later, wishing someday I could have a little boy.
That same year ended up being a life changing year. In November of 2014 my husband called to tell me that my cousin needed us to take her daughter Charlotte. The state, DHHS, was placing her daughter in a temporary home and wanted to know if any family would be willing to take her. We were last on the list.
My cousin was like my sister my whole life and she and Charlotte had lived with me earlier in the year. I really loved and cared about Charlotte. This was how I got into my sticky situation with being a foster mom.
My cousin, Natasha, I try not to judge too harshly. She was taken from her mom at age 6, and her three siblings after. She was in foster care til age 8 when my grandparents took her in and she became like my sister. Her mom was literally a crack whore in California with a 10 page criminal record that went from theft, prostitution and drugs to grand theft auto. Tasha was with my grandparents til she became too rebellious of a teenager at age 14. Suffice to say, other then our grandparents she never knew or experienced good parenting or family life, and because of this, I believe it led to her adult life as an addict and having her daughter taken away.
Natasha and I were pregnant together. when I was having #2. We found out she was pregnant when she ran away from her home and boyfriend and told us she had been doing heroin and bath salts her whole pregnancy, and actually died when she was 5 months pregnant, but was resuscitated. We gave birth 3 weeks apart. And she had a miraculously perfect healthy baby girl.
When Natasha came to live with me in January of 2014 she was fleeing Texas with her daughter and everything they could fit in a diaper bag and backpack. My mom paid her plane ticket up. She had relapsed on meth again with her boyfriend. She admitted they and their friends would do meth with their children in the room. In a moment of I dont even know what, she decided she needed to leave Texas and come home.
I had her come live with me, but her boyfriend drove up a week after and there is no way but to say it bluntly, he brought trouble with him. Within months I found out they had been doing pills and other stuff in the house and that was the end of that.
She went from I guess March to November, not working, staying at anyone who’s house would let her stay, getting kicked out eventually, and in that 8 months several DHS reports were made. I realized something was wrong with Tasha living with me because she would sit catatonic on the couch. I mean, completely ignoring her daughter. Her daughter once asked her 25 times for juice and she finally got up and got her pretzels. So feeding, diapering, and all that was coming down on me. She wouldnt put a diaper on her daughter, so her daughter was pooping all over my house at age 2. After Natasha wasnt living with me, her mother actually kicked her out for the same incident.
She was staying with her mom and her mother’s newest loser boyfriend when the event that Charlotte was taken away for happened. Natasha got drunk with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend. Apparently they got into a huge fight with Charlotte there. When Tasha came conscious, she was crying to police on the phone at a convenience store that she didnt know where her daughter was and thought she was with her mom’s boyfriend who had just beat her up.
Long story short, my cousin had a completely punched in face, blew a 1.9 BAL, her mother lied to the police on her statement and said that neither of them touched her and in her drunken stupor “must have fallen off a fence.” The police bought it and didnt worry about whatever happened to Natasha, and basically focused on Tasha’s neglect charges. This was not the first time DHS got a report on her being intoxicated and unable to take care of Charlotte. There were a few filed earlier in the year.
She couldnt stay with her father because he was in jail. He had just been arrested the week before because while driving down I-95 at 80 mph with my niece in the car, he was driving so irradically that several people called his vehicle in for swiping guard rails, etc. The police pulled him over and ripped him out of the car, guns a-blazing, to find a man on heroin and bath salts driving with his 2 year old daughter, my niece in the back seat.
I power clean my house and make room for her crib. Charlotte was 32 months old when she came to live with us.
I finally meet with the DHS case worker the next day, who tells me that Charlotte will be here for four months. She weighed 22 pounds when I get her to my house because her mother never made her eat real food, pretty much just let her eat Popsicles and snacks. She looked incredibly skinny. We had the stand offs about eating the superfoods I incorporate into our dinners which dont come from the freezer. I stuck to my guns about “no snack unless you eat your dinner” and after a few weeks she was in the routine.
In her first few weeks I have to admit, at age 25, I had NO idea what I was getting into.
The first days I found out when I scolded my own daughter for doing something naughty, Charlotte would hide under a table. I had to work with her directly to understand she was safe, not in any trouble, and basically get her to not feel like she had to do that.
Then one day in December she randomly says two strange things: one while we are getting into the car. She says “I hope we don’t get caught.” I look at her strangely, and say “for what?” She replies she does not know., Then we get home and she says “I hope the cops don’t come get me, the cops are BAD.” My husband and I had a long conversation with her about how police aren’t bad at all, and she is not bad, and she is safe, no one is coming to get her.
January 2015, we are working on potty training the two almost 3-year-olds. It’s easier then you would imagine because they both want to do what the other is doing and if one gets a potty treat, the other wants to pee so she can get one too. Charlotte and us are at an impasse: she will pee and pee on the potty, but will not under any circumstances poop on it. She knew when she has to go, because I try putting her on it when she starts to poop, at which point she legitimately would hold it in. She would poop in her diaper even if I asked her 1 minute before she did it if she had to poop, she would just poop and smirk at me and say she needed a new diaper. Finally at one point she fell asleep on the potty for a minute, accidentally pooped, and we gave her a poopy treat. After that she started using the potty for pooping. But I really think her stigma about pooping was from being screamed at about pooping on the floor all year (her mother’s negligence). We just started letting her know we didnt want her to poop in her diaper and that she would get a treat if she pooped on the potty. And of course we held up on our promises. She now doesnt wear any diapers.
February 2014 – At this point I want to start writing about the visits. I called this my sticky situation for a reason. Her mom’s visits are at my house. 3x a week for 3 hours each.
Now, when Charlotte is in my home she always listens to me, always is polite and sweet, and well behaved. But from the first moment her mother arrives every visit, she becomes a terror. No other way to put it. This is where I am looking for comments and advice. She becomes incredibly rude to me, wont listen to me, if I touch her she will recoil and swat me from her (which she NEVER does normally) she becomes rude to her mother and ultimately its because of her mother’s continuing neglect. Her mom, between smoking and being on her phone, really doesnt much interact or engage Charlotte, wont let Charlotte sit on her lap most of the time (which is all she wants to do), has refused to read her books (which I promptly sat down and read to all three kids), and basically because of the amount she says “NO” to Charlotte, works her up into a temper tantrum and tears every time. The first visits consisted of Tasha putting her on repeated time outs, which consisted of Charlotte going to her room and screaming, and then Tasha would go get her 10 minutes later and the process would repeat for the whole visit. My husband and I finally had to talk about how the awful visits were going. Neither of us originally wanted to step in and over parent Charlotte with her mom there, and DHS seemed to agree it should be her job. But she wasnt doing it, and that is not what a time out is like in our house.
DHS is asking me how visits are going, I explain they have been going not so well, leading up to an episode where Charlotte scared the crap out of all of us, by dropping herself flat on the floor in front of her mother and smashing her head on the floor. It looked like she was going to have a seizure, but she didnt. It is mainly negative attention. Charlotte will do anything for attention from her mother.
So by the second month I have started interjecting when Charlotte is getting out of hand or rude. I direct the visits so that when Charlotte is told no by her mother, I give her something to do instead. I have to make sure I give her a real “time out chair” time out (following through consequences) if she is getting rude and crazy and is no longer listening to me. Charlotte clearly listens better to me because I tell her if she does something there will be a consequence and I follow through on it. If I don’t step in her mother will still send her to her room to scream at which time we have an argument over how I don’t think that’s acceptable and I really do not want to see my kids do that.
I try to talk to Tasha about this, and she gets really upset with me. Natasha tells me “there are NO parents out there who ACTUALLY play with their kids and do stuff with them all the time.” And she gets really upset at the idea there might be. In fact, she cant handle the idea that the person telling her this is a stay at home, home schooling mom who engages, reads, plays and hangs out with her kids ALL DAY EVERY DAY. The look I was giving her said “I do, ya know….” I say this because shortly after I heard her in the bathroom crying. She MUST realize, I do actually do all that, that’s what GOOD parents do.
By the third month to nip it in the butt entirely I start having “pep talks” with Charlotte, 10 minutes before her mom gets here. “Charlotte, your mom will be here in a few minutes. I want you to be as good for her as you are for me. No being rude to her, you have to listen to both of us.” If I remind her before her mom gets here, 9 times out of ten she’s good for her mom’s visits but I still have to direct them because she doesn’t engage much.
When Charlotte came here, she had all the classic symptoms of neglect: she ate food off floors or wherever she found it. She would follow me around, she did not play with toys, food was a competitive thing for her, she would try to squeeze between me and my husband if we were being affectionate or sitting next to each other, she needed as much positive attention as we could give her, she would hang out outside my door or the bathroom instead of playing. In fact, it became obvious no one ever played with her, she didnt know how. She was a sponge when she first got here. She watched my kids play, and repeated everything they did. She repeated every line on anything we watched, she repeated everything. After a few weeks she settled in better and started adventuring through the house of toys we have.
Right now we are working on getting her to “have her own fun.” She is constantly seeing my kids playing with anything, and it looks fun to her, and she wants it. Then she tries to take it. It doesn’t matter we have 5 minnies for minnie’s bow-tique, the one Ally has must be the best because shes having so much fun with it. She is forever saying “I want it, it’s mine” even when things are not hers. I am working with her on doing her own thing, she doesnt have to do what Ally or Emmy are doing (my girls) and she doesn’t need the toy Ally has in her hand. She gives me the death glare when I tell her this, but I know she loves me because Charlotte tells me 100 times a day she loves me and has mistakenly called me mama a handful of times. AND she’s learning she LOVES to paint! So we are making progress.
So its February 2015 and a new case worker comes to meet me. She’s a “permanency case worker” and informs us at the end of next month they will be presenting their case before the judge to take away Charlotte’s mom and dad’s parental rights over neglect and a decision will be made. She asks if we want the foster care packet to fill out to keep her here and become licensed.
…And I said yes! 🙂
So we are waiting for it to get here, and hoping everything is perfect and she can stay here.
But my relationship with Tasha is a hard one. She was my sister and my best friend my whole life, but now she probably feels like I am her enemy because I have her daughter, I parent her, take care of her, and I have to tell DHS the truth, I refuse to lie for the sake of Charlotte’s life. I feel as though Tasha kept her like a pet almost and not even a good pet owner, and I don’t want to see her go back to that. A child deserves a parent who will read books to them, teach them to count, feed them real food and BE THERE and love them and love them enough to have a stable life for them.
My cousin is doing everything she knows how to do, she is trying but I am not the only one who thinks it will never be enough. My cousin rents a room for herself, has a job and is staying clean so far. She is just learning to take care of herself. She wants to have her daughter back but has no real idea what being a real parent entails. All she knows is she loves her and wants her back. Regardless of whether she can do the job, she wants her back. I respect parents who give their child up for adoption when they know they can’t provide for them, they are GOOD people who put their child first. Then there are people who just cant comprehend they are not parent material. I say this sincerely, how can she ever help Charlotte with homework if she wont read green eggs and ham to her? How can she get her school supplies and project supplies or lunch money when she can’t save for a birthday present? These are the conversations the caseworker, GAL and I have.
For now, filling out paperwork and getting licensed. What Tasha does with her life remains to be seen, and of course, Charlotte will be here safe and sound with us as long as everything goes according to plan.
I am sure other foster parents will read this and know just how I feel because I read it in your blogs. We care for all our children, even the ones we didnt give birth to, and it kills us to see children go back to homes we know arent going to benefit them. That is the life of a foster parent, here one minute, gone the next. And although I want to keep her safe, I know that there’s every possibility she could be given back to her mom at some point. And I have to be ready (emotionally) for that day.
Got advice? Hit me with it! I’ve been reading all the foster parent blogs out there to try to be the perfect stand in mom for Charlie (as we call her). So advice is always appreciated. Thanks 🙂 Dont forget to follow me for future posts.