It’s all about the introspection and resolutions this time of year, isn’t it? Just thought I’d take a few minutes to share what last year was like for us on a more personal level and chat about what’s coming in the new year.
2015 was a difficult year for our family and one that came with huge changes. If there was a word to describe the year it would have been “uncertainty”. If I were being really honest with myself and you, the word would actually have been “fear”. And maybe “change”….but not the good kind.
Last year I entered 2015 with the threat of losing my boys and thought that maybe we’d had our last Christmas together. Basically, the child welfare agency threatened to remove the boys and place them for adoption elsewhere or “place” them with me under a court order removing all supports and funding if I didn’t agree to adopt. Either option pulls the supports and resources we do have in place for the boys but the court order would have destroyed us financially. We’d have lost our home, our services, and supports and I would eventually have had to give up the boys to foster care. Despite the fact that I was already a foster parent, that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. They would break us down by shutting down my foster home and the boys would go to a different foster home. With strangers because I wouldn’t be financially able to care for them as a single parent and the agency needs the boys “off the books”. Not sure how that makes them off the books except they’d find someone who could adopt and not need a subsidy, I guess. That seems child focused.
Such an insane situation. I’ve spent most of the year trying to figure out how to fight them. In December, I gave up and told them I’d adopt even though I’m pretty sure it’s a guaranteed path to failure for these guys. I’m coining a new term- “gunpoint adoption.” I know that our family isn’t alone in gunpoint adoptions and I plan to write more about this and fostering in the new year. (Just a teaser about our announcement there!) The senior manager in charge of our file was offended by that term. #sorrynotsorry
I also spent several months in battle with the boys’ former worker (former, ha!!) who did everything in her power to make sure that that boys did not get assessed and subsequently diagnosed with FASD. Not to ruin the ending but they did get diagnosed. #sorrynotsorryagain
I suspect that the struggle was in part due to her power and control issues but also in part to not wanting the boys to be diagnosed as it would mean that the agency would have to acknowledge that the boys are high needs and therefore wouldn’t be “adoptable” by anyone else. That battle led to me leaving my social work job because I happened to work at that agency at the time and it became almost impossible to get my own job done as a result of the hostility and gossip. I also recognized that the boys needs were so high that I needed to be available to them full time. Which put us in an even more unstable situation since I was now relying solely on the foster parent funding to make ends meet until the blog became more profitable.
As a result of all that drama, I may have spent a few months thinking that I had anxiety or depression or was an otherwise awful person but a wise friend pointed out that I was reacting normally to some very awful and hostile behavior on the part of the organization that was supposed to support our family and these little boys. He was able to help me see that the system is broken and to stop taking things so personally. Basically they treat everyone like shit and I can’t fix that. I continue to worry about a system that is so broken they believe they can only fix themselves by breaking others around them. In this case that would be families. I wonder if they worry about their ability to cause damage as much as I do.
I also lost my two closest friends this year. By choice. I didn’t so much as lose them but terminated our relationship. The first because she had a serious drinking problem that resulted in her being mean, sarcastic, and made fun of just about all of my choices and how I parented when she drank. Which was pretty much every time I saw her. She’d get pie-faced drunk in front of my kids, falling down, banging into walls and then would proceed to drive home drunk no matter what I tried to do to stop her. I hear she got sober but it was too little, too late for me.
The second has always been a narcissist who’s definition of abuse is anyone who disagreed with her. I know she had conflict with pretty much everyone so I’m not sure why I was so surprised when she turned her venom my way. But she never had before so I was pretty unprepared. After my imaginary transgression and subsequent apology she continued to be mean and ugly, picking fights for months regardless of how hard I tried to smooth things over. When she started attacking my kids, saying no one wanted to be around them, I was outta there.
I might be a little more alone (or a lot) but I don’t miss the drama one little bit. I think we need to be braver about cutting our losses when people just don’t fit, particularly when they don’t fit our value systems. If, like me, you value kindness then you probably shouldn’t make room in your life for mean people. Life changes happen and most of us can overcome the differences and challenges that come with boyfriends, babies, husbands, and new jobs. We can work towards a new balance. But there’s no room for people in our lives who are toxic, negative, and have major mental health or substance abuse issues. They need to go work those things out on their own. I’m really good at making excuses for bad behaviors and letting things go on way too long. Social worker hazard. Those days are officially over.
The other major event is that our plan to relocate to Alabama has fallen apart. The child welfare agency is refusing to allow us to go. I’m fine with that but not how it played out. What burns my butt the most is that it became clear that they were never going to allow that to happen but refused to actually say so for nine freakin’ months. I’m fine with being told “no”. I’m less fine with selling my things, moving a ton of my belongings to Alabama in anticipation, and leaving my job thinking I’d be working on flipping a country cottage where I’d be able to live for free while doing so. And then waiting to leave for 9 months while they were “thinking about it” only to find out that we’re not going to be able to do that. Not cool, social work senior managers, not cool.
Enough of the ranting.
The upside of the decision to leave social work is that I’ve been able to write and blog full time. Which is pretty awesome! Since part of the “treatment plan” is that the boys attend daycare full time, this has been a great opportunity to expand the blog and to start a second site which will launch today! Yup!! That’s our big announcement! Because clearly one website just wasn’t enough for me 😉 I can sleep next year. Or the year after that.
FASD Families was going to be launched 2016 but it’s up and ready to roll. The site is designed to be a place to support and share resources for families raising kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The focus is on supporting foster and adoptive parent but also making a resource for social workers and other professionals to assist in identifying and supporting little ones who might have FASD. I think the biggest struggle for me and other foster parents I’ve met is the unwillingness or inability of social workers to address their concerns and to ensure that children are screened and diagnosed in a timely manner.
I’ve written a little bit about the boys, FASD, and fostering issues but it just isn’t a good fit our niche. I wanted to keep this as a design and DIY space but also have a space for FASD and fostering/adotion supports. That equals two sites and I’m super excited about it. It’s nice to think that all that fancy education and a masters degree in social work aren’t going to go to waste. Swing by and visit FASD Families and follow us! We can use all the support we can get as we get our new site off the ground:)
So while I’m all about leaving 2015 in my dust, I’m really excited to bring on some major (and happy) changes in the next year. This is going to be a big one for us and I personally can’t wait to get started. I think the word of 2016 is going to be “intentional”.