Monday, December 21, 2009

Christian's Birthfather

Originally Published on MEM's MEMOS on December 20, 2009

A couple of days after I wrote my last post (in which I took the liberty to vent about how much I dread birthparent visits) I got a call from Christian's caseworker informing me that his birth father suddenly decided to move back to Utah and would like to have a visit with his baby boy.

So on Tuesday morning I drove up to the DCFS Office to take Christian to see his birth father for the first time since they were separated 2 weeks ago.

Mental health experts say that pessimism isn't healthy or helpful, but I'm going to play devil's advocate on this one and beg to differ: When I'm in a particularly stressful situation I tend to worry and expect the worst possible outcome and then when the worse case scenario doesn't happen I am happily surprised and relieved.

Tuesday's visit was one of those times when I was happily surprised.

-I didn't have to drive up to Ogden in a snowstorm.

It was actually a very clear day with plenty of blue sky.

-Christian's birth father wasn't resentful or rude to me when I met him. He was actually very polite and when the visit was over he expressed his gratitude towards me for taking such good care of his son.

But perhaps what was most impressive to me about his birth father was how he interacted with Christian: When I lifted the sleeping baby out of his car seat and placed him into his father's arms, his father's face lit up with an expression of pure joy. It was almost like watching a little girl on Christmas morning discover a new doll.

It couldn't be more evident that Christian's birthfather is in love with his little boy and for that reason alone my heart goes out to this kid- (I must be getting older to refer to him as a kid!) He is a young (19) single parent who has fathered a child with a woman who is not interested or able to care for their child.

Christian's birthfather is trying to do all in his power to get his son back, which the court has mandated includes maintaining a steady job and housing. (He now has a job at McDonald's and proudly told me he has a place now too but I didn't ask for the details). Christian's caseworker was sick that day as well, otherwise I would have asked her a billion questions about the Service Plan.

It would be a lot easier on me if this birthfather were a total jerk- but he's not. Just meeting him once I could feel of his sincerity and there is an innocence about him that endears me to him.

As much as my husband and I want nothing more than to have another child, at this point in time it looks like the purpose of taking this placement is to provide Christian with a safe, loving home until he can be reunified with his father. It is perhaps one of the biggest ironies and heartaches of being a foster parent.

Difficult Birthparent Visits

(A continuation of thoughts from the previous post regarding difficult birthparent visits)

. . . It's even worse when your foster child's parents can find no good about you whatsoever and look for any reason to complain to the caseworker about what you're doing wrong with their child.

In the case of our last placement, "Molly" the weekly complaints varied from week to week:

One week they complained that Molly's diaper was too tight. So I loosened it.

And of course, the following week they complained about it being too loose.

One week they were suspicious of a scratch on her face-"Do you have a dog or cat in your home?" they immediately asked me.

"No," I calmly answered, leaving less room for their interrogation.

I'm 100% sure the scratch was from her scratching her face with her little nails so to prevent any further incidences in the future I cut her nails a day or two before the next visit before they had a chance to get long. The next visit their complaint was that I cut her nails too short.

Sometimes you just can't win.

Molly's birthparents would also come to all of her doctors visits- regular well baby check-ups as well as appointments with her pediatric cardiologist since she had a heart murmur.

This was also a time to complain or at least insinuate that I wasn't doing a good job parenting their child. At one of the first doctor's appointments her birthfather said to the doctor, "She seems to be especially fussy since she's been placed in foster care- sometimes at visits she just cries for no reason."

I have to admit that I really liked this doctor- I could tell that he could sense that Molly's BF was, well- how do I put it nicely- "full of crap" yet this pediatrician was always very diplomatic and validating to any of Molly's father's concerns- real or imaginary. I can't remember the explanation he gave for that particular complaint, but I do remember that right afterwards I couldn't help myself when I piped up and said (probably with a little too much sarcasm) "Evidently babies are known to cry from time to time".

Yes, it's very frustrating to voluntarily take a child into your home, love her like she was "your own" and instead of being thanked be treated with resentment. But a couple of months later at a training that exact topic came up (of birthparents resenting foster parents) and our trainer tried to explain that we shouldn't take it personally as it isn't so much a reflection on us as it is the birthparents dealing with a loss of control.

Foster Baby Update

Originally Posted on MEM's MEMOS on December 8, 2009

We've had the baby for over a week now. When we saw him for the first time at the DCFS Office I was a bit heartbroken because he looked more like a helpless, tiny old man (think Benjamin Button) instead of a regular, chubby baby. He is 2 ½ months old but only weighs 9 pounds- (which is 8 ounces less than what my husband weighed when he was born, incidentally!) That puts him below the 5th percentile for weight. Our goal is to give him lots of love and fatten him up. I have no idea how much he weighed when he was born so I don't know how much he's grown since birth.


Other than his small size he's in relatively good health. He does have some problems with reflux and a bit of thrush in his mouth which seems to be clearing up. Whenever we would feed him the first couple of days he was here he would gulp down the bottle like he was starving, which made his reflux worse or went right through him and gave him diahrhea. Fortunately, he's learned to relax and slow down when he eats which has helped to reduce so much spit-up (and laundry I might add- it's amazing how much more laundry a little person can add to a household).

Despite spitting up almost everytime he eats he seems to be getting the nutrition he needs as his hair and eyelashes seem to be growing a little longer every day and his little cheeks are starting to fatten up!

As of his 2 month check-up just a couple of weeks ago he's up to date on all of his vaccinations. I will be eager to see how much he's grown at his 4 month check-up (if we have him that long).


As with our other foster placements I won’t be using his real name to respect confidentiality issues, but I will be referring to him in my posts as “Christian” (which sounds somewhat similar to his real name and seems appropriate since he has come into our lives at Christmastime.)

I won't be posting pictures of him either because of confidentiality issues.


At this point in time, Christian's birthmother is not interested in having visits with her baby and since Christian's birthfather moved out of state there obviously won't be visits with him.

I won't lie when I tell you that I was extremely relieved to hear that there will be no weekly supervised visits with this placement. The thought of driving up to the Ogden DCFS Office in the middle of winter (which, I might add, is located in between not one, not two, but THREE different gang territories!) and being in a waiting room full of parents who have lost their children to drug addiction or abuse is NOT an uplifting experience.

It's even worse when your foster child's parents can find no good about you whatsoever and use weekly visits as a time to express their complaints to the caseworker.


The soonest Christian would go back to his birthfather would be in six months when the Permanency Hearing is scheduled. It will be decided at that hearing whether Christian can safely be returned to his parent's care or if he needs to remain in foster care. If Christian's father can prove that he has kept a steady job and has housing appropriate for a baby then he can regain custody and/or guardianship of his baby. Of course, one thing I have learned regarding the legal system is that there can always be extensions or appeals. Depending on the judge, an extension (usually 3 months) may be given to the birthfather if he isn't sufficiently prepared at that time.

Until then, however, any of the birthfather's relatives who are interested in having guardianship of Christian can apply to have him placed in their home as a kinship placement, granted they can pass background checks and health & safety checks in their home and be approved by caseworkers first. After all, most parents with children in foster care would prefer to have their children placed with relatives instead of complete strangers.

As far as we know, Christian's birthmother's relatives aren't interested or are not good candidates for a kinship placement. Christian's birthfather has expressed a desire for his relatives to care for Christian, but since these relatives live out of state an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) will have to be done which is basically a legal procedure giving permission to transfer the custody of children in one state into the custody of another state. This process varies from state to state and I have no idea how long it will take for the state Christian's relatives live in - it could take a month or it could take several months.

Our Third Foster Placement

Originally posted on MEM'S MEMOS on December 1, 2009.

Less than 12 hours ago I got a call from the Division of Child and Family Services asking if we would take another foster placement- this time to a two month old baby boy.

That baby boy is now currently snuggled in the crook of my left arm as I type this. (He seems to sleep better in my arms than he does in his bassinette!)

We don't know how long we'll get to have him in our home- it could be for a couple of weeks or it could be forever. It's a very surreal experience and I haven't even had time to process things yet. I will try to post some more info (as much as I can, that is) in the future.

Until then I will be brushing up on my baby care techniques using the following illustrated reference guide. After all, it's been over two years since I've cared for such a tiny, helpless creature!