On a recent call, an AZAFAP foster mom shared that the three girls who have lived with her for 3 years (one since birth) are being considered for reunification. She was being a trooper, but anger and frustration were her go-to feeling states. As we listened to her report of a meeting during which she asked if she could share the girls’ progress and challenges, several things got our attention.
- DCS used this meeting to give her this news. She learned that the 3 children she had shared her life with for 3 years would be returning to parents who had missed most visits until just recently. She got this news in front of the entire CFT group. This only contributed to her anger.
- As she gave her progress report, she listed the various services the girls received.
- When she described a recent supervised visit, she described how the biological mother had interrogated her about something one of the girls had said, implying that some privacy boundaries had been violated.
Please understand, this foster mom did nothing wrong. She loves these girls and makes sure they have the best chance possible to recover from their early neglect and abuse. But she is giving too much credit to everyone else in the picture. So, I’m going to offer you the same friendly reminder we offered her:
- It was thoughtless bordering on cruel to get this information at the CFT. Unfortunately, too many case managers are under-prepared and under-experienced to bring the courage necessary to such a sensitive moment. I encourage you to follow up with a phone call to respectfully register your disappointment if this ever happens to you.
- AZEIP (Arizona Early Intervention Program) is the resource for services before age 3. 6 weeks before a child’s 3rd birthday, it is time to contact your local elementary school for an assessment for pre-school special ed so these services can continue.
- When speaking at the CFT meeting or anytime there is a gathering of those involved in decisions about a child’s care, assume no one knows anything about anything. You know why and how kids get qualified for Occupational Therapy (OT) but assume NO ONE ELSE does. Be specific about what behavior warrants this or any other intervention. I suspect we hold back so as not to seem to be trying to make the child look bad or difficult to manage. Talking in jargon, acronyms, or any other code risks no one really getting the complete picture. If holding a spoon is difficult, say so. If toileting independently is still a problem for a 5-year-old, say so. If her articulation is so compromised that only you understand what she says, say so.
- Don’t wait to be asked to speak and go in with a few notes so you don’t forget to mention important information. Be courteous but be sure to let the group know you have news to share. You alert the facilitator to this before or just as the meeting begins. Try not to wait until the meeting is about to end. You don’t want to be the dropper of bombshells or the person who expects others to wait for a bathroom break.
- It is important that you act as if the parents are hanging on your every word; that they are looking to you to catch up on their child’s progress. This goes for visits, CFTs, court hearings or any other time you find yourselves together. They might not be looking at you; they might even be accusing you of some thing or other (the best defense is a good offense, right?) but you act as if they crave what you know about their children. Even if they don’t ask a single question, you can offer news of the cute moments, the proud moments and the really challenging moments that mark your days. You don’t want to hold back any information that might make things easier for the child in any transition. You also want an embarrassed/ashamed parent to know that you are paying attention and respect what this separation might feel like to them.
- Attachment is a 2-way street. After years of caring for another person, saying goodbye is inevitably painful. Anger and frustration are part of the story but try not to get stuck there. Reach out to those who understand and get all your feelings attended to even if it makes you cry.
- Finally, the foundation of love and competent caregiving you have provided cannot be taken away. It will be there to tug at the child’s heart and mind even when you are not there.
- Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
- Our Friday night Happy Hours continue. Some nights find me and a single other participant; others find a conversation among 4 to 6 people. The topics range from silly colloquialisms that add color to self-expression to what hobbies have us in their grip to what life has thrown in our path over the past few days or years. If you ever find yourself awake and wanting a bit of grown-up novelty, consider joining us (check your email for the link).
- A monthly training series focusing on Special Education Issues are scheduled and on the calendar. Starting soon, I will offer a weekly series to focus on the Neurosequential Model of Caregiving by Dr. Perry. These are offered to satisfy your licensure requirements, curiosity, or life-long learning goals. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in membership or any training event.
- Certificates of attendance are issued for the training hours. Watch your email for the registration opportunity.
- This shut down continues for those of us who understand what is at stake. Others seem to struggle to grasp that. Still others, like the teens in your home, have begun to climb the walls. You are in my thoughts. Reach out if you need an ear: email@example.com.
- I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.pcaaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/B21-Insightful-Caregiving-Intimacy.pdf and at https://www.neurosequential.com/covid-19-resources.
Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.