Ask for Help

Many families go into foster care with the idea that if they do not perform perfectly as foster parents they will not be allowed to foster.  I can easily see how this happens in a system where there are many rules and regulations that need to be followed.  Certainly there are certain rules that, if not followed, will jeopardize one’s role as a foster parent.  Those are clearly laid out, logical and always related to the safety of the child.

However, there are many foster families that worry, even after spending years involved in the system, that they will be removed from their role for any random misdemeanor.

A messy kitchen floor,

a child throwing tantrums in the office in front of ten social workers,

forgetting an appointment or visitation,

a visit to the emergency room after a child falls off a bike or does some other childlike thing,

and maybe most common of all…having to ask for, or obviously needing,

HELP.

I remember our first foster placement.

I was only 23 years old and I had never been a parent before.  I was reminded of this continually and cautiously all throughout our home study process.  It was not in a superior way, just gentle reminders that encouraged me to be open to advice from those around me who were more experienced than I.

Despite that, the first child placed in my arms and my amateur care was a five week old baby struggling with drug withdrawal symptoms who had spent all his little life so far in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

I didn’t know enough to be intimidated, but I did know I had something to prove.

I would have to earn the respect and trust of the doctors and nurses releasing him into my care from their expert hands, the social workers putting me on duty as “foster parent” for the first time, the birth parents of this tiny child and maybe most of all myself.

That placement only lasted a few short weeks, and I came out proud of the way I had handled it and grateful for the knowledge I had acquired.

However, looking back I know for certain even if I had been in way over my head…a phone call to our social worker would have been the last option on my list, and one that terrified me.

Despite the friendly support, gentle guidance and beginnings of a relationship we’d developed through the home study process, I was sure that if I showed any sign of weakness or incompetence I would be deemed unworthy.  Maybe even worse, in my own mind asking for help meant I was somehow not enough…and I desperately wanted to be enough.

Thankfully, God brought me just what I needed.

A child who broke me.

A child who needed more than I had to offer.

Asking for help was no longer optional…and when I finally did…the relief and support and encouragement I received made me realize how proud I had been.  Where I had ever gotten the idea that I alone could be enough I have no idea.  It takes much more than just one person to raise a child, especially a child who has been through the physical and emotional trauma most of these children have endured.  Though motherhood certainly requires us to take on aspects of many roles in life, we will find ourselves discouraged, disillusioned and burnt out if we try to be all things to these little people.

Through the next few years, I had many opportunities to practice asking for help.  It is getting easier, though I still have to fight against the craving to somehow be everything for my children.

In foster care and adoption, especially, I soon discovered I won trust and respect much more quickly when I was willing to learn and admit my own weaknesses or lack of expertise.

When I demonstrated a heart that was open to new ideas, new methods, outside resources when needed, others’ opinions and yes, even breaks at times…the relationships formed became solid and deep.

Now, our resource worker is a person I go to quickly when I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I know she will see my heart because she’s had many opportunities to learn it.  I know without a doubt in my mind that if I’m feeling tired or needing a break, if I just come and ask for help she will try her best to supply that need.  I also know that using these resources to help me prevents burn out, frustration and actions that I would end up regretting as a mother.

We are stronger when we admit we are not always enough.  There is much to learn in parenting…especially children who’ve experienced trauma and heartache to the measure these kids have.  But there is also much that can be accomplished when we choose to learn what we can, tap into resources and even change our lifestyle to accommodate special needs.

Ironically, I have found in the world of foster care and adoption admitting I alone am not enough makes me less afraid, not more, of new challenges.  It feels less frightening to take on children with challenges such as extreme behavioral difficulties, medical needs, permanent diagnoses, etc when we remember we will not have to do it all alone.

It takes a village to raise a child,

but as a parent I will need to choose to tap into the village.

So if you are new to foster care or adoption…my best advice to you is this.

You don’t need to be a superhero.  Admit you do not know everything and be willing to listen, learn and grow.

Even if you’ve parented for years, there is much you do not know about the children who are about to enter your care.  I can guarantee it.

Take the courses.  I have taken the same attachment course three times now and still I have so much to learn.  Many of these are available for FREE through your local agency.  Ask your social worker.

Read the books.  There are more and more child psychology books available on topics such as attachment, exposure to drugs and alcohol, poverty, domestic violence, anxiety, mental illnesses, etc.

Ask for help.  Friends, family, your social worker, community counselling services, your church, etc.  Explain what you need clearly and humbly.

Ask for advice and opinions of those who have been there.  If you don’t know anyone, find a group online.

Seek out professionals and research.  Family doctors, paediatricians, child psychologists, resources for speech and language, behavioral therapy, etc.

Don’t try to do it alone.

You will become a trusted, respected and humble foster/adoptive parent only to the degree that you are willing to ask for help.

I want to give a special warning to Christian families involved in foster care and adoption here.

While it is certainly true that the Bible is full of advice for parents, please do not reject the knowledge and wisdom you can gain from professionals and public resources and services.  Just because someone is not a believer does not mean they have no insight into your situation.  Emotional and physical abuse and neglect causes changes in the way a child’s brain functions and develops.  Alcohol and drug exposure will do the same.  The life your child has come from may be one you could not even begin to imagine.  Just as you would seek the advice and research of an expert on other topics, you will need it here.  You would not expect a teacher to use only the Bible as a textbook for Math, Language, the Sciences and Arts.  There is much knowledge to be gathered about the human mind.  The pieces you already know and the ones you learn will all come together to give you a greater insight than you can imagine and a greater ability to parent your child successfully and biblically.  Your child’s heart is at stake.  Do not be so arrogant as to believe you hold all the keys.  We have an opportunity to display God’s heart of humility and gentleness toward the professionals we interact with.  The church will be valued as a resource for these children only if we show a willingness to learn.

More than anything…remember that with God all things are possible.

Believe that, and seek His guidance in all that you do.

Pray for your children and your self.

Pray for wisdom to seek the right resources and help for your child.

Pray also that you will have wisdom and discretion when seeking personal friends and confidantes.  A lot of damage can result from sharing too much information with the wrong people.

Seek out a faith family that will encourage and build up your family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Find at least  one friend that you can tell ANYTHING.

The best, the worst

the triumphs, the failures.

You do not have to be alone in this.

Ask for help.

AF

 

 

 

 

Cry It Out?

 

IMG_9407-1I remember the first time I cared for an infant.

As a “new mom” to our first foster child, a baby, I was reporting in detail every little quirk in his sleeping habits to our social worker.  What sticks out in my mind is her kind eyes looking at me with a hint of amusement as she said gently, “You know you may eventually just need to let him cry it out!”

Fast forward four years and I’m dragging myself out of bed to go comfort my five month old for the fourth time in one night.

Not hungry.

No fever or signs of pain.

No diaper change needed.

Just wanting to be snuggled and preferably offered a breast for extra comfort!

As much as I absolutely adore
my baby, and have learned sometimes it’s not worth the battle, sleep is something I know I need and this particular night I knew I needed to put on my big girl pants and get him back to sleep without my help.  This was becoming a pattern.

So…

After attempts to rock him, cuddle him and sing him back to sleep I tucked him back in his crib, turned on the singing seahorse and stood beside his crib watching him cry in the warm glow of the night light.  I thought of leaving, but couldn’t bear to leave the room and instead propped my head on the rail inches from him and tried to calm him with my whispered words of comfort.

His poor little eyes filled with big tears and he cried his little heart out.  He’d never experienced anything like this before!  Being such a content little guy, at the slightest whimper he is used to being scooped up.  I thought to myself that this was probably one of the first big moments of stress in his life!

He cried and cried, big shuddering sobs.

Just when I’d think he was almost calm again, he’d start all over again.

At these moments it is really unfortunate to be an adoptive parent who has spent the last three years focusing on attachment, brain development and healing kids from trauma.  As I stroked his cheeks and listened to his mournful cries my heart broke and I felt my chest tighten with anxiety.

All the stories I’d read of babies left screaming for hours on end and the resulting brain trauma flew through my mind.  I was sure he was going to think I was abandoning him and all I could picture was the diagram of the brain in attachment classes with the prefontal cortex all lit up in bright red!

What kind of mother just stands there and lets her child cry?!

At the same time the logical side of me knew this was an age old, tried-and-true method that most mothers use at some point with most babies.  I also knew that tomorrow would not be forgiving of me after a night of fitful, interrupted sleep.  Thirty minutes, an hour, forty-five minutes, or two hours at a time is not a way to feel rested and energetic the next morning!  I would still have to get up and take care of my baby.  I would still need to home school my daughter.  I would still need to get to the grocery store with my two children and do the shopping.  I would still need to get to the appointments and make dinner for my family.  I would still need to do the laundry so my girls had clean clothes for the weekend.  Life would still be there, and I would be a much better mother with a little more sleep.

Sigh.

This pattern needed to stop.

I realize there are all kinds of ideas surrounding babies and sleep.

Sleep schedules.

Sleep training.

Sleep cycles.

But every baby is different, and every mother is different.

At the end of the day you have to find whatever works for you.

After almost 45 minutes of on and off, broken-hearted crying my baby gripped the finger I offered and drifted off to sleep, still sniffling as his tears dried on his pink cheeks.

The funny thing is, as I felt his body relax and go off to blissful dreamland,

instead of heading back to my bed,

I stayed.

I stayed and stroked his soft head.

I whispered to him all my dreams for him,

My prayers for him,

And my apologies for being only mortal when I wish to be so much more.

My arms ached to hold him,

now still and quiet in sleep.

I desperately wanted to cuddle him close and let him feel my skin against his.

I wanted him to know just how very much he is adored.

But of course I couldn’t.

I told my husband later that the worst part was not watching him cry and have his eyes beg mine pleadingly, though that was torturous.

No.

The worst part was that eventually he was okay.

Without me.

Eventually he gave up.

And that broke me.

I don’t know if I’ll do it again.

I probably should, and probably will.

It really does work most times from what I hear.

But I hate it.

I’m designed to be his everything, and that is what I thrive on.

Interrupted nights,

frustrated minutes pacing the floor,

those are really just par for the course.

I’m a mother, after all.

 

AF

 

Foster Care

It’s official.

We are back on the “call” list for our local foster care agency.

Any day now we could have another little person walk through our doors and stay for a night, a week, a month, a year…or forever.

We did not predict that we would be ready this quickly.  Less than two years after our daughters’ placement in our home and just over 3 months after our son’s birth, we are jumping back in.

I can see the raised eye brows,

the widening eyes.

I can hear all the questions you are asking.  I’ve asked them too.

I can hear you saying that we have no idea what we’re getting into; that we are putting our children’s lives in jeopardy; that we should draw our limits.

But there’s something you need to know.

We don’t get to choose.

When we dedicated our lives, our home and our family to Jesus Christ, we surrendered the right to choose how, when and what we do as well as the right to follow whatever our feelings dictate.

God has made it very clear to us in the past month that it is time.

It’s time to jump back in.

It’s time to serve.

It’s time to love.

It’s time to once again offer our home and our family as His hands and feet.

And even though it doesn’t make sense; even though we have every reason to say no, I trust Him.

My girls are ecstatic.  Naive, but ecstatic all the same.

They know what it is like to be in foster care.

To feel alone, unwanted, unloved and frightened by life itself.  So their hearts are jumping at the chance to show another child what family can be.

In our home we don’t just play “house” or “dolls”, we play “foster care”, “adoption” and a pretend life that is shadowed with the tragedies most children aren’t yet aware of.  Our dolls have been hurt and abandoned.  Our play phones ring with calls at 2 am from social workers.  Our precious little babies leave us at a moment’s notice and return to biological parents.  They’ve suffered head injuries, malnutrition, long hospitalizations, broken limbs and bruises.  They cry and throw tantrums.

This is our reality.  We’ve been there.  As the kids in care and as the foster parents loving them.

This time around I have battled a lot of intense emotions and fears that I didn’t experience the first time we entered foster care.  Three and a half years ago when we started fostering I was so excited, so confidant and so ready.  This time?  Well, I’m still filled with all those feelings, because God’s been nudging my heart for a while now and preparing me for this.  But I’m also incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted and fearful heading into this new season of our lives, because this time there is so much more at stake.  It feels like there is so much more to lose.

I am keenly and painfully aware that I am throwing my three children into chaos.  Painful, challenging, heartbreaking chaos.

Foster care is no walk in the park.

It’s hard.

It hurts.

It’s intense.

It’s unpredictable.

It takes a lot of time and effort.

The truth is, I don’t want them to have to give up the secure, predictable environment we’ve worked so hard to create in our home for them.  I don’t want them to have to share their clothes, their games, their stuffies, their rooms, their parents and their home.  I hate that this might mean I have less time, less energy and less patience for them.  I don’t like the idea of putting extra strain on our marriage.

I’m afraid I will crash and burn physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m afraid I will not be able to be the Mommy, the wife, the home schooling mom or the foster mom that I want to be.

I’m afraid my daughter’s education will suffer.

I’m afraid we will fall back into old patterns and habits that go along with insecurity and change in this home.

I’m afraid I will not get to enjoy my beautiful baby boy the way I want to.

 I’m afraid I will not possibly be able to love another as much as I love these three.

 I’m afraid I will fail.

Miserably.

I am so aware of my own short comings and my own limitations.  In the eyes of the world and all it’s logic we are not prepared!

Yet God says,

“Go.”

While I stumble through the questions and fears in my heart and mind I hear Him say:

“Have you forgotten so quickly who sustains you?

Have you forgotten how small you are?

Are these three precious little people I’ve placed in your home and your life more important than all the rest I have made?

Have you forgotten they all belong to me?

In your weakness, I can best show My strength and glory.

It is not out of confidence, ability, power or strength that you serve.

It is out of gratitude.

Humble gratitude for all I have done for you.”

So what can I say?

To the One who intricately formed each of my children, as well as the child who will walk through our doors next.  To the One who loves them each the same with His everlasting, unbreakable love.

To the One who can give me strength and energy for each long day and night.

To the One who is waiting to pour His love into the gaps my own heart cannot fill.

To the One who has given us everything we have and blessed us with abundantly more than we could ever need or want.

All I can possibly say is YES.

I will go.

I will serve.

I will love.

I have no promises that this will be easy or that we will not have to sacrifice anything dear to us.  In fact, I am quite confidant that it will most definitely be very challenging and that we will have to sacrifice some things that are very dear to us.  But I also know that if He is calling me, He will provide enough for each day and that I would rather live in the center of His will than in my own carefully crafted security bubble.

So are we ready?

No.

We are not ready…and yet…we are more ready than we’ve ever been.

We understand things we never did before.

We have more love to offer in the shape of two young hearts who have gone through their own journeys.  They are so eager to love, and I am humbled by that and reminded what exactly my job as their Mom is.

My job is not to shield them from all hurt…though I wish so much I could.

It is not to give them everything they want, but to have the wisdom to see what they really need and realize that sometimes this includes hardship; hardship that produces character and spiritual maturity.

It is not to make them the center of our home and world, but to point them to Jesus, the One who needs to be the final Voice in all our decisions as a family and the center of our home and our lives.

It is not to teach them to weigh pros and cons, as if life is all just a big game where we are all looking out for ourselves alone…but to teach them that we are here to serve those around us.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”                Matthew 25:34-36

“And whatsoever you have done to least of these my brethren you have done unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

“”And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

10 Things You Should Know About FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Alcohol Related Neurological Disorders (ARND).

Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD).

It’s growing,

spreading,

taking over our society.

An invisible epidemic;

Incurable.

Brain damage.

100 % preventable.

The emotions I feel as I write those words are deep.

Anger.

Pain.

Vulnerability.

Exhaustion.

As the parent of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder this is an issue that has affected me very personally and to be perfectly honest I am just in the very beginning stages of understanding and accepting the realities.

For those of you who may have never heard of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) or are unfamiliar with the definition, here’s a brief explanation:

When a woman drinks alcohol while carrying an unborn child inside her womb, that child’s body and brain are exposed to a very damaging substance.

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous teratogens (substances that can be harmful to a developing fetus.)

Alcohol, unlike other food or drink consumed by a pregnant woman, passes directly from the mother’s blood stream through the placenta to the baby.

Alcohol in the bloodstream constricts the ability of the growing fetus to access oxygen and nutrients.  Therefore a baby exposed to alcohol prenatally will not be getting the oxygen and nutrients needed to continue developing at a healthy rate. 

This is made even worse if coupled with the carbon monoxide a fetus receives from cigarette smoke.  The baby does not have the ability to break down alcohol the way an adult can, so the blood alcohol levels will stay higher for a longer period of time than that of the mother’s.

This means the baby is being exposed to even greater amounts of alcohol for an even longer period of time than the mother. 

Alcohol causes cell death and sets in motion a wide variety of disruptions all over the body.  The most common affects are seen in the brain and nervous system.  Alcohol exposure can also leave behind toxic byproducts on the brain which linger and continue to cause damage.

A child who has been exposed to alcohol prenatally and demonstrates a significant number of effects physically or neurologically is diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  This is an umbrella term that includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Neurological Disorders.  For the sake of clarity in this post I’ll just be using the term FASD when talking about any alcohol related disorder.

That, in a nutshell, is a description of the invisible epidemic that so many families and individuals are struggling with in our society.  Many of these families and individuals are found within adoption and foster care as alcohol use during pregnancy is so often coupled with alcoholism and drug use postpartum which leads to abuse and neglect.  Unfortunately trauma affects the brain in many of the same ways as alcohol and compounds the effects, giving the child a “double whammy.”

This is a huge topic and one I can’t even begin to cover in one post, but I’ve made a list of 10 things you should know about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  Please take the time to read this.  So many families are trudging through the trenches of raising a child with FASD and feeling so desperately alone.  It’s hard, it’s exhausting and it’s constant.  You can help by being aware of the realities and facts so you can be there to support them.

1) FASD is an invisible disability.  By this I mean much of the time you will not be able to see any distinguishing physical signs.  Some children will display a slight indication in facial features that most people would not be able to recognize but many have no physical indications at all.  Most of these kids look like regular kids with a little extra energy and discipline needed.  This, by far, is the most difficult part of having FASD or parenting a child with FASD.  Everyone around you will struggle to believe that your child truly has a neurological disorder that limits their abilities…and so will you!  A person with an FASD will most likely be incorrectly labelled and judged almost every day of their lives by those around them.  A parent will experience much frustration due to others not understanding their child’s very real disability simply because until you are intricately a part of that child’s world he or she will just appear to be a regular kid.  This is devastating to the person with FASD, however, because as much as we’d like to ignore their limitations, they are very real!  You can only function so long in an environment that does not meet your basic needs.  School, home and the workplace will all become places of failure if your disability is not understood and accommodated for.  Unfortunately most families living with the reality of FASD will still have some people in their lives who take the stance, “I can’t see it, so I won’t believe it exists.”

2) NO Amount of Alcohol is safe during pregnancy!  I cannot even begin to emphasize this enough!  Unfortunately there are still doctors who are uneducated regarding FASD and will tell you that small amounts of alcohol are not harmful to your baby.  They are wrong!  There is no proven ‘safe’ amount of alcohol.  This does not mean that every child exposed to a drop of alcohol will be affected by FASD, but it does mean that every child exposed to even a drop of alcohol is at risk for FASD.  The effect the alcohol has on the developing fetus depends on many things including timing of consumption, amount of alcohol consumed, development of the fetus and the genetics of both mother and baby.  Fraternal twins can be exposed to the exact same amount of alcohol at exactly the same time and still be affected differently because of their genetic makeup.  This makes it impossible for anyone to tell you a safe amount of alcohol for you and your unborn child.  No amount is safe!  This disability is 100% preventable!   

3) FASD is an incurable disability.  There is no “fix” for FASD.  Alcohol is physical damage done to the brain and nervous systems.  While the brain can learn new ways to compensate, the actual damage done will remain the same.  There will be connections missing for the entirety of the individual’s life.  There are medications that may help some children and adults dealing with FASD, mostly to manage the ADHD-like symptoms.  There is not, however, a magic pill for FASD.  There is no one medication that is going to target all the areas of weakness in a person with FASD.

4) FASD causes impairments in children.  Some of those impairments include mental retardation, learning disabilities, attention deficits, hyperactivity, problems with impulse control, language, memory and social skills.  These impairments make it very difficult for children to thrive in environments such as school.  A typical FASD child will probably: have trouble focusing on tasks, require sensory aids, need constant supervision, have trouble making and keeping friends, have a poor concept of time, find it hard to transition between activities, struggle with anxiety, have poor coordination and balance, find it difficult to work toward a goal, will not learn from their mistakes, have poor judgment, be jittery and hyperactive and display extreme mood swings.  Typical behavior also includes habitual lying, stealing and aggressive behavior towards others.  All these behaviors are rooted in neurological damage and need to be handled as such.      

5) FASD affects the way a child learns; it does not mean they cannot learn!  As soon as people realize that alcohol exposure does, in fact, result in physical, irreversible damage to the brain…their first thoughts are that therefore that child cannot learn.  This leaves a pretty bleak picture!  Children born with FASD’s can go on to be happy, healthy, successful adults…sometimes.  The goal is to reach their potential by discovering new ways for them to learn.  This takes a lot of hard work on the part of parents, teachers and the children themselves!  The world is not geared for FASD, and therefore they are at an acute disadvantage.  But don’t give up!  These children are smart, talented, funny, and social individuals!  Many of them will go on to do very well when given the right tools to accommodate their learning style.  They can become responsible, independent adults…but this isn’t always possible.  Every child is a unique case when it comes to FASD and so there is really no way to predict what the outcome will be.  Depending on the areas of the brain damaged by the alcohol exposure or to what degree, FASD individuals may need structure and supports to navigate their days for their entire lives.  Thankfully FASD is starting to become more recognized and therefore more and more resources and supports are available for families, children and adults affected by this disability.

6) FASD is a spectrum disorder.  This means that, just like Autism, children affected by alcohol exposure in the womb will present with symptoms all over the spectrum.  Every child is a unique case.  FASD has a wide variety of faces, making it even more difficult to assess.  A child may be very severely affected and present with many symptoms or a child may be only slightly affected and therefore portray only a few of the symptoms.  However, this does not mean the symptom displayed is any less severe or that somehow it can be “fixed” since the child does not seem to be severely affected!  Remember, this is physical damage done to the child’s brain!  Most children with FASD will display a similar set of symptoms varying in severity.

7) Children with FASD find it very hard to control their emotions and behaviour.  I know I mentioned this earlier, but I feel these two symptoms are worth going over again since they are so disruptive to daily living.  Many individuals with FASD would be able to do quite well in life if it weren’t for their lack of ability to control their emotions and behaviour.  Coupled with difficulty understanding consequences and poor judgment, this is a major obstacle!  Most children with FASD need constant supervision to ensure the physical safety of themselves and those around them.  They are often described as unpredictable, reactive or as one of my daughter’s teachers said, “She’s an opportunist!” 🙂  Unlike most children, these are not traits they will grow out of as they get older, though they may be less noticeable.  Structured environments, repetition and self regulation tools can help them learn to moderate their behaviors and set them up to succeed, but on their own they do not have the cognitive ability to accomplish this.

8) Children with FASD have strengths too!  Despite the challenges of FASD, many of these children are incredibly lovable, gifted and resilient.  They tend to be very social little people.  Though they may struggle with social boundaries they can often win over strangers with their affectionate, chatty nature.  Even though they can have quite drastic mood swings, they can quickly get over being hurt or angry.  One minute they will hate you, but the next they will love you.  My favourite is, “Mommy, I love you more than the sun!”  Besides being very social these children often have strong visual memories, rich fantasy lives, are very creative and have a strong sense of fairness.  They’re energetic and can handle lots of physical activity, making them active, fun kids to interact with!

9) Children and youth struggling with the realities of FASD are vulnerable.  Many, many of these children and youths will end up in trouble and charged with criminal offenses due to their lack of self-regulation skills and their tendency toward aggression and violence.  Without the ability to control their emotions and responses, they are extremely vulnerable in a society that doesn’t understand or accommodate their needs.  A high number of youths in our criminal justice system have FASD.  Unless they are backed up by professionals or advocating parents to explain their behaviors and beg allowances and accommodations they will be treated as any other person in our justice system.  Even though developmentally they are still a child, they will be treated as adults.  Even as children, FASD individuals are vulnerable.  Children with FASD often have poor social skills and need the protection of adults around them to keep them safe.  They have a very poor sense of judgment when it comes to other people and easily trust anyone who is nice towards them.  They will appear comfortable around even a total stranger if given positive attention.  They also love physical interaction and will seek it out of anyone who is willing to give it.  This makes it hard as a parent to keep children with FASD safe.  An important part of parenting a child with FASD is putting into place appropriate social boundaries.  This can be hard when the child continually receives positive attention from other well meaning adults when he or she crosses those social boundaries.  When children deal with attachment difficulties on top of FASD it emphasizes this and makes it even more complicated.           

10) Education is the key!  The answer to helping the many children and young adults with FASD is found in being aware of the realities and then advocating toward better environments for these individuals to not only cope but to thrive!  By building on strengths and creating a safety net around them, children and adults with FASD can lead happy and successful lives surrounded by people that love and care for them.  They are valuable, beautiful people who deserve the best we can offer them.  As one person put it, FASD is not one of the “designer labels” like autism that people have accepted and provided support for.  With such a direct, negative source it is not a fun disability to talk about, much less explain to children or adults.  It does, however, have just as severe ramifications and being quiet about it never helps.  FASD individuals deserve the dignity and respect we give any other person with a disability and they desperately need those around them to be understanding and supportive even when it gets ugly.  They are not, after all, at fault for their disability.

My prayer as a mother of children struggling with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is that they will not only survive but that I will create an environment where they can thrive!

Every single day I want to make the choice to see the beauty of who they are despite their difficulties.  I am humbled to serve a God who can work with even the most broken of vessels and turn it into something intricate, unique and glorious!  Nothing can surprise Him, or travel beyond His ability to transform and remold.  After all, when it all fell apart He was already there.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I would count them they are more than the sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.”

Psalm 139:13-18 

I pray that God will give me the grace and courage to advocate for, offer grace toward and protect these beautiful souls he’s created in His image.

There is so much more good than bad…if only I choose to see.

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.”

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Said What?!?

I thought I was the only one who had a child like this! I just realized that I am not and it is the best feeling I’ve had in ages 🙂 LOL

Sizzle Bop

  —  What was your brain telling you before you sat on the doorknob?       —  No thanks. Mommy does not want to smell you earwax.             —  We don’t lick the car.                 Read more things we can hardly believe we ever said.               

said what-1

 

Can you believe some of the things we say as parents? I was so amazed at the strange things coming out of my mouth that I decided to have a contest to find out what OTHER parents of Sizzlers are saying to their kids. If you want to read the entire hysterical list, click above. My personal favorite involves a tooth. Keep a lookout for it. This list is a good place to come back to every now and then to remember, when you find yourself saying…

View original post 1,267 more words

Karter Jax Freeman

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My sweet boy,

You have forever changed my world.

I had no idea I could experience such a huge array of emotions in such a short time.

Pain, anticipation, helplessness, elation, relief, awe, adoration and the deepest joy I have ever known.

Your birth was beautiful, terrifying and humbling.

On October 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm you entered the world and I immediately fell blissfully in love with you.  Holding you in my arms and seeing your bright eyes gazing up at me I felt as if my heart might tear at the seams.

You are almost 5 weeks old now, and still I have not lost that sense of wonder when I look at you.  It’s remarkable how just when I think my heart could not possibly hold more love, you smile and it fills my entire being with joy.

Adoption and foster care has made me a different Mommy to you, Karter.

A better Mommy. 

Every other baby I’ve cared for, loved and kissed goodnight has already been dealt some of life’s ugliest blows…even at only a few weeks old.  Their worlds quickly lost the innocence and purity yours still holds.  They knew pain, fear, rejection, abandonment and loneliness so incredibly early.  So when I look at you, sleeping peacefully with no fear, no pain, no awareness of anything but gentle love and the security that you will be nurtured with the deepest of adoration…it shapes in my heart a vow to be the very best I can be.

To you, I am everything. 

Your favourite place is in my arms, pressed closest to my heart.

You are so innocent and unblemished, and I would give anything to protect that pure beauty.

Anything.

I find myself wanting to shield you from all the harsh realities of this world we live in.

Your cry cuts straight to my soul, and I know this will never really go away.  In the blink of an eye you’ll be as big as your big sisters and still I will be trying to protect you and be your safe place.

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I know too soon I will no longer be your everything;

Your favourite place to be,

And the arms you never tire of being wrapped within.

So today I hold you. 

I hold you and hold you until my arms ache.

Even while the dishes and laundry pile up and the clock ticks the hours away, I hold you.  I breathe in your scent, kiss your soft crown and let you hear the beat of my heart right next to your own.

Eventually the world will come and force its way between us, and I will be proud as you spread your wings.

But for now, I will hold you close, and I will enjoy every second.

I love you, Karter Jax

Forever adoringly yours,

-Mommy

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All of Me

It was such a lucky encounter.

There we were, at the library once again for our tutoring session on a perfectly normal Tuesday of the summer.  As usual my daughters headed straight for the back corner for the games and toys.  By the time I caught up to them, there they were sitting on the floor watching a little boy as he raced his cars and trucks around on the floor making appropriate loud vrooming noises.

As I approached, smiling at the man sitting on a chair watching the little boy, my daughter looked at me and said,

“Mommy, who is this?”

She’s very curious about people, especially little people, and since we often run into people I know that she hasn’t been acquainted with yet it’s a somewhat common question.

I responded with a grin toward the man,

“I don’t know!”

Halfway through my answer the man cut in and said the little boy’s name.  My daughters both glanced at me with wide eyes and I stumbled for words, finally blurting out,

“Did you say _______?”

I knelt down on the floor and took a closer look at the little boy my girls were so intrigued with.

Sure enough.

My breath caught in my throat as I stared in disbelief.  Just the right age, just the right eyes and complexion.

Last time I had seen this little boy I was kissing his soft cheeks, caressing that dark hair and fighting back the tears as I buckled him securely into his infant car seat.  I had loved him with a passion I had never known before.  He was the very first child that made me a mother.  The very first child that turned my world upside down.  The only child I’ve ever grieved quite that hard for…simply because I had no former experience to brace me for the goodbye.

For the next hour I watched him play, studying his sturdy toddler movements, his joyful little personality bursting at the seams.  I talked to him, handed him toys and smiled at the sight of my beautiful little girl playing at his side.  The irony was so intriguing…here we were two and a half years later and our lives had traveled such a distance from each other, despite living in the same small town.  When I was able to catch his eyes I saw in them only the reflection of a stranger.  I was a complete stranger to him, and he to me.  Yet at the same time I knew watching him run and laugh and play that I would do absolutely anything in the world for this little boy.  The moment he entered my life, my heart claimed him as my own.  Our time was so short…only 5 weeks…but it was more than enough time to establish a bond strong enough to last eternity.  Every child I have ever cared for has claimed a piece of my heart and in return I have offered each one a vow.

I will love you.

Unconditionally.

For as long as I can,

As well as I can,

No matter the cost to my own heart.

I will fight for you,

And protect you.

I will claim you as my own, and love you without boundaries.

A piece of me will always be yours to keep.

Because I have been so loved,

I will love you.

This is the beat of my heart, and the passion that God has placed within me.  When He called me to serve the least of these, He called me to do it with all of me.  I have struggled at times to keep this vow.

It is hard.

It is messy.

It is scary and vulnerable.

It means holding tight and then surrendering with abandon, believing that God goes with each one even when I can’t.

It means facing the truth, even when the common cliches would be much more comforting.

It means asking hard questions and committing to heavy burdens…but not letting them pull you down.

It means taking one day at a time and believing that now is as important as forever.

It means giving more than you think you have, regardless of the consequences.

My biggest prayer every day that I have been a foster parent has been that I will love every child God places in my care this way.  Why?

Because they deserve it.

Because it is right.

Everything I believe about fostering and adoption has it’s roots in my belief that God is our Creator, and that He delights in each and every person that He creates.  Every little person that has entered my home or ever will has unimaginable value in His eyes.  For me to treat them as any less is horribly wrong.  He loves us regardless of our performance, and gave the greatest He could possibly offer us even though we had done nothing to deserve it.  He takes us as His own and gives us a future and a hope.  He puts everything He has on the line so that we might experience redemption and relationship with Him.  When I realize that He has died for each of these little ones…what else can I possibly consider than to give everything I possibly can for them as well.

Too many children are living in the foster care system believing that somehow they are second rate.  Despite the fact that they have been so wronged in so many ways, most of them believe it is them that are somehow to blame.  Even more horrifying is the fact that the general consensus in society is the same!

Too many foster parents survive the constant change over in kids by holding back pieces of their heart.  Don’t get too attached.  Brace yourself for the goodbye.  Put your own needs and family first.

I get it.

It can be hard and the lines can get pretty gray.

But I also know that a child can absolutely sense those attitudes and they do more damage than you can imagine.  We have a whole generation of teenagers emerging from the foster care system who have never once in their life felt like someone would do whatever it takes.  They know better than anyone that when push comes to shove, foster families will protect their own backs.  They’ve heard all the reasonings and they know what they are…excuses.  The words they hear are:

“You’re too much.”

“It’s too hard.”

“Our own children are more important than you.”

This doesn’t mean that the answers are always the same.  Sometimes loving does mean letting go.  Sometimes loving means drawing some hard lines.  Sometimes loving means realizing this child needs more than I can give.  But too often those kinds of ‘love’ have little to do with what’s best for the child and much to do with what’s best for me.

So I am begging you.

Dare to invest as much in these kids as you’d invest in your biological children…because they are every bit as valuable and every bit as important.

Join me in starting a revolution in the foster care system.  A revolution of Christian families stepping forward to say,

“Yes!  I will love these children with all of me.

My littlest A loves this song by John Legend…it’s a song that takes her back to a familiar place that felt safe, happy, warm…and every time she hears this song on the radio her blue eyes light up with joy.  So I’ve started singing this song to her.  It’s a connection point that reaches her heart.

ALL OF ME

What would I do without your smart mouth
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing in my head for you
My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all though it’s hard

Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

It’s not the song I would have chosen in my sentimental mind to be the anthem for my baby girl, but she chose it…and really…it’s perfect.  I will always love you, babe.  All the imperfections, in all your mess.  I am so bad at this, and I have no idea how to be everything you need me to be.  But I love you, and I will do my best to give you all of me as you, in all your vulnerability, choose to put your trust in me.  And to all the rest of the kids out there who have taken pieces of my heart…I hope that you grow up to know that at least one person in your life loved you with everything she had!

Walking home that day after our encounter at the library with my baby…yes, my baby…I felt so blessed.  Even though it can be hard to see kids later and face the facts of their life, it’s still an experience that is very meaningful.  Even though this little one I gave everything to just a few short years ago looked at me with no recognition or attachment, it made my day to see him smile.  I delighted in his chubby cheeks that once lay on my chest, the little legs running around that once kicked in distress in his hospital bassinet.  Memories came flooding back, and it was beautiful to relive them.

Thankyou, Jesus, for the gift of that little moment.

Was it a lucky meeting on an ordinary day?

Maybe.

Or maybe it was just a little reminder from my Jesus that He’s right here with me.  His is the passionate heart beating inside of me for these little ones.  His is the vision of a future and hope.  His is the pouring out of all that I am.

It is because I was first loved by Him that I love.

AF