A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. --Forest E. Witcraft
Although this is always a busy time of year, recently it seems above and beyond. Here is a bit of a catch up post.
Starting two weekends ago, May, Sweets, and Buddy had their winter Children's Chorus performances and May had her final concert of the season. Luckily this weekend came after both May and Buddy's school performances. Here was that weekend's schedule:
Friday - Take May and Buddy to school as usual; drive 40 miles to pick up Sweets at lunchtime; take her to lunch; pick up May from school early on the way home; get them in the shower; pick up Buddy early from school; get him in the shower while I help the girls with their hair; leave at 3:30pm to drive back across town, 50 miles this time; grab quick dinner; report to concert hall at 5:15pm; assist with uniforms, hair, nail polish and jewelry removal; attend concert starting at 7pm; meet family and friends after concert in lobby; stop for gelato as treat on way home; arrive home after 11pm to get ready for bed. Meanwhile, Miss M took the little ones to therapy in morning and afterwards to a friend's house for respite overnight.
Saturday - Pick up BB and Precious at 8:30am; drop May off at church at 9:45am for service project of watching kids while parents shop; left Sweets, BB, and Precious at church to be watched; took Buddy to eye doctor appointment (no glasses needed!); drop off Buddy at church and pick up May at noon; get May lunch and ready for final choir concert; May was picked up by friend's mom for concert; make quick stop at one store; pick up Sweets, Buddy, BB, and Precious at 2:45pm; wait for May to get home; drive to meet parents at restaurant to celebrate my mom's birthday; get kids home and in bed; wash choir uniforms.
Sunday - Skipped church (just couldn't get everyone up and ready); eat brunch; get oldest three dressed and ready for concert; left after trusted babysitter came about 1:30pm; report to concert hall early before 2:30pm; assist with uniform checks; get text from May's dad at 3:20pm (he took bus to wrong venue over five miles away); rush to pick him up and get back before concert started at 4pm; made it, but had to drop him off and then park and hike from neighborhood across the street; enjoyed concert; took pictures with May's dad after concert; met with friends who attended concert for dinner; drove Sweets home; got home about 10pm and collapsed after kids got in bed.
Last week was a bit of a blur, but I did complete a full week of work. Highlights of the week also included:
Tuesday - date night with Buddy for dinner, dessert, and shopping for choir gift exchange
Wednesday - Cub Scout pack meeting which included talent show where Buddy demonstrated his napkin folding skills
Thursday - doctor's appointment; bake loaf of bread for Christmas potluck at work on Friday
Friday - Miss M took Precious for a speech evaluation; after dinner on-the-go, drop off Buddy with friends to attend pro basketball game and spend night; pick up Sweets after hunting her and her dad down around their neighborhood since she lost her phone and his wasn't working
Saturday - pick up Buddy mid morning; get him in shower; get Sweets and Buddy ready for final choir concert; drop Precious, BB, and May at house of Precious and BB's aunt near choir concert; drop off Sweets and Buddy at choir concert and party/gift exchange; back to aunt's house to visit with her and her young children (nice time); pick up Sweets and Buddy; home and then out for dinner with friends
Sunday - church; get new tires on van while shopping and eating at C*stco; drop May off to study with friend and Buddy off to play with friend; take Sweets home and talk with her dad to work out Christmas break schedule; get Buddy and May and friends home
Are you tired yet? This week is filled with work, school, May's finals, and multiple doctor's visits. But there are two highlights scheduled this week:
I really thought Precious' adoption would be finalized this year. There is still no date set for her adoption. We can't even request one, because I don't have a current adoption certification.
Precious was legally free in July. But then it took over a month for the CPS case to transfer from the ongoing unit to the adoptions unit. My adoption certification expired two days before the transfer occurred.
My licensing agency filed my home study requesting my new adoption certification the same week the case transferred to adoptions. That was back in August. My understanding was that sixty days is usually about the longest it takes for approval. Not for me!
First it took almost two weeks just to get logged in with the clerk of the court. Then it was given to a judge on the other side of the county for approval. It sat on his desk for about five weeks. Finally it was moved to the correct judge on my side of the county. He received it the first week of October.
One would think it might at least be approved by the first week of December. Nope. My adoption attorney, my licensing agency, and CPS have all been involved and trying to push for the certification to be complete. The judge asked for more information in early November. The last communication was that he would likely sign it before he left for Thanksgiving vacation. That didn't happen. Here we are two weeks later and still nothing.
There is a review hearing on Monday for Precious' CPS case. Maybe the judge in that hearing can prod the other judge. Who knows? I can't even file the petition to adopt until the certification is signed. The petition is ready to go, has been for months. Once the petition is filed, the court assigns a date. Please let it be this year!
I'm praying and hoping and praying. Everything will happen in God's timing, which is perfect. Right now, I'm just not very patient and have a hard time remembering that!
I came home from work at lunchtime today. BB was not interested in napping, AT ALL. Thankfully he played in his room for a while, letting me get some things organized.
About 2:30pm, I loaded BB and Precious into the van. It was time to go pick up Buddy from school. Then we were off across town to pick up Sweets and Lil Sis, who was going to spend the weekend with her maternal uncle on my side of town.
A few blocks away from our house, I realized I had left my cell phone on the counter. So, I turned around to go get it.
BB was very upset. He started yelling "No Home"! He wanted to pick up Buddy and Sweets! This little boy really loves his big brother and sister! Just maybe, he was also trying to make sure he wasn't going home to another naptime!
Tonight I went to Sweets' first band concert. For those of you who have never been to a 5th and 6th grade band concert, let's just say I'm grateful it was only a half hour long!
There she is in the front row, one of four flutes in a band of 37 fifth graders. She was all smiles, especially after she found me in the audience. I walked in right as the band director turned around to start the music.
Afterwards, I couldn't find her dad. I knew he had brought her to school for the concert. When I asked Sweets where he was, she said he told her to ask me to drop her off at the laundromat a block down the street. WHAT?! He decided it was a higher priority to do laundry during that half hour than to come to the band concert. Amazingly, it didn't seem to bother Sweets. I tried not to make a big deal about it, but I wonder how much it really bothers her inside. She passes things like this off as "that's just my dad". So sad.
Sweets is now ten years old. I remember when she came to me at eight months old. And I remember when she moved to her dad's just before she was five, and my heart nearly broke. Now she has lived with him longer than she lived with me, but she is still my daughter and in my life. It has been a challenge, driving back and forth every weekend to pick her up (40 miles each way), negotiating schedules with her dad (usually at the last minute), trying to monitor schoolwork, providing extracurricular activities, and dealing with her dad's ego and authority mindset. All in all, Sweets is totally worth it. She is a bright, energetic, outgoing child who is much more independent and mature than a ten year old should be. She is sweet and tender and caring, even though her own feelings and struggles sometimes get in the way. She has so much potential in so many areas. I am very glad I still get to be her mom, even if from a distance most of the week. I'm loving watching her grow up and am excited to see where she goes in life!
Precious is now ten months old. She is developing her own unique personality. This weekend she started walking with a push toy that Miss M gave her as an early Christmas present. Although I think it will still be a while before she walks on her own, she seems to enjoy this newfound freedom in an upright position. Precious is babbling a lot. She knows how to get our attention. With eight teeth, four on top and four on bottom, she is branching out into trying many table foods in addition to her baby food. This week she ate pieces of lettuce, tomato, pasta, potato, roll, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. She is definitely bonded to me and has started getting a little clingy, wanting mom over others, even people that she knows well. It's hard to believe ten months has passed so quickly, and yet it seems like she has been with us forever.
Since I am home four days in a row this weekend, I thought I would give toilet training a try with BB. No way, no how. He is totally not ready. Although he will pee in the toilet, semi-on-command, he has only once pooed and that was likely an accident. He soaked and messed four pair of training pants in less than half a day. That was despite peeing on the toilet at least twice during that time. The wet and messy pants made no difference to him at all. I think we are waiting a few more months before trying again.
My 5th grader has used the following vocabulary words during conversations in the last 24 hours:
She claims she will no longer use the word 'hate' because 'despise' works so much better and "most people don't know what it means anyway". In her daily world, where most of her contacts have English as a second language, she is probably right.
"I know now not to put lotion on while simultaneously drying my hair," as I was blow drying her hair last night.
She was looking for a reaction on this one! I think she likes the way it sounds.
Yesterday's sermon was about being thankful. Not so original at time of year. But the main message talked about being thankful for all of the little things, not just the big items that we plan and hope for. We all have so much to be thankful for, and much of it, we have and don't even think about how we got it.
Most of us all have similar general lists of things for which we are thankful: health, shelter, food, freedom, faith, and family. However, being a foster parent, the concept of being thankful for family has taken on a whole new meaning.
Virtually all parents are thankful for their children. Unfortunately, in foster care, we sometimes see, and maybe even meet, parents who don't really want their children or consider their children a burden or a nuisance. Some of these parents like to have their children, but are quite satisfied seeing them only for an hour or two a week just to lay claim.
Most parents are exceedingly grateful when their baby is born "normal". As a foster parent, we are grateful to have a child placed in our home, often not knowing what needs that baby/child has. As special needs or past traumas are discovered and dealt with, we say thank you for every little inchstone of progress.
Few parents think about being thankful for privilege of "continuing" to raise their child. Although some parents must deal with extreme circumstances of accident or disease that may claim the life or health of a child, most don't regularly consider the possibility of their child leaving. In foster care, we almost daily recognize the possibility that one of our children could leave our home with almost no notice or warning at all. Each day I am thankful to have a foster child one more day, one more week, or one more month before the next decision point that might take him/her away.
When a foster child is able to stay and be adopted as a permanent member of the family, that thankfulness continues. It is not just a blessing that this child has become part of my family and has a home forever. I am also thankful for the trials and tribulations that this child avoided by not leaving my home and having to readjust back to their birth family or start over in a new family.
I am also thankful when a child is successfully reunified with his/her birth family. Granted, sometimes all I can do is worry and pray that the child is safe and loved. But sometimes there really is a success story and I am thankful for the birth parent(s) and the child being able to make a home together. It is also a privilege to help these families as they move forward, and I am always thankful when I am allowed to maintain contact with foster children after they leave.
Finally, after becoming involved in foster care so many years ago, my capacity to be thankful for my own birth family has grown exponentially. Initially, I realized how thankful I was for things I never gave much thought to before: being raised in a two parent home with two loving parents who cared about me and my sisters daily, having parents involved in my schooling and extracurricular activities, being taken to church and raised to know God and Jesus, experiencing discipline that was appropriate and designed to help us become responsible adults, never being hungry or worrying about where we would sleep, and many more.
Over time, I also recognized how thankful I am for parents who are still an integral part of my life. I am so blessed that they are both still here, together, and involved in my life and my children's lives. In addition, I am exceedingly thankful for their ability and willingness to experience the ups and downs associated with foster care, both as foster grandparents and dealing with me as I go through the painful times. I know they don't always understand why I do what I do, but they support me 100% and continue to stand by me.
Being thankful for my family, both my children and my parents, sisters, and extended family, is so easy. My family is definitely not perfect and sometimes they drive me crazy, but there is so much to be thankful for! I wouldn't trade my family for anything, and I thank God for giving me the family that I have!
Precious is nine months old, and this name truly fits her. She is the cutest baby with the most infectious smile and giggle ever!
At her nine month checkup, she weighed 21 pounds and was 30 inches long. She's not small and has been wearing 12 mo clothes for a few weeks.
She is eating up a storm. She loves her finger food, especially toasted O cereal. She will eat every kind of baby food you give her, although I think the mango took the longest to finish. She is starting to eat "real" food, and so far has tried bread, pasta, beans, peas, and banana, plus probably some more I have forgotten.
Seven teeth are present, four on top and three on the bottom. Precious has really been a healthy baby. Other than a few days of diarrhea or vomiting, she has rarely been sick. Any slight fever has generally been attributed to her teeth. No ear infections or prescriptions, other than for rashes.
She sleeps well and has finally figured out how to stick her pacifier back in her mouth in the middle of the night. Sometimes she naps twice a day, sometimes only once.
She babbles a lot, but no words have been uttered to date. She won't wave at all, but she will lift her arms slightly to get picked up.
She has definitely mastered crawling and moves across both the carpet and the tile. She can pull herself up to standing along the couch and in her crib. She has also moved along the couch, taking a few steps. No independent standing yet.
She is easy to please, but she also has quite a temper when she wants something and doesn't get it.
Prcious is a blessed addition to our family. I am so glad she is here! I'm really hoping my adoption certification gets approved very soon. We are running out of time for finalization this year.
Homework is a bad word right now. May has lots of it, and it hasn't been getting done.
We started off the school year with May being responsible for her own homework, by her own choice. This did not work, AT ALL.
Next, I started asking what was assigned and what was due. In some subjects, I would ask to see the assignments after they were completed. May hates it when I check her homework and ask her to correct the ones that are wrong. Unfortunately, when a large number are wrong, there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Even this approach has failed.
Now I have found out that I was not getting the full story. Many assignments were never mentioned. Others were claimed done, only to get partial credit for being incomplete. Ugh!
Reality hit the fan. Things are going to change. Micromanagement of homework starts, effective tonight. The word grounded entered the discussion. Phone calls and texting are no longer available for any non-family, non-emergency communication. I wanted to add chores, but the time will be needed for more homework.
I really hoped not to get that intimate with eighth grade homework again, but the time has come.
Today I had a doctor's appointment. After waiting in the exam room for more than 30 minutes, a nurse came in and started some small talk. It quickly came out that the doctor had been held up by an earlier off-site appointment and would be further delayed. I jokingly made some comment like "there goes the dinner plans". She immediately apologized, and I quickly told her it was not a big deal but just mentioned my need to be home for an appointment that evening.
Trying to change the subject, I said that I think I found someone as crazy as me. I had just read a magazine article about Diane Keaton and how she had adopted, as a single parent, an infant at age 50 followed by another infant five years later. She is now 66 with a teen girl and a pre-teen boy. I commented that at least I'll be younger than that when my adoption is finalized.
From there, the conversation turned to my family and ultimately foster care and adoption. This young nurse was very pleasant and had genuine questions about adoption and then about foster care. We talked for about a half an hour before the doctor finally arrived. I told her the good, the bad, and even some ugly. I stressed that the need for foster parents is extremely high in our area, as the number of kids entering foster care has skyrocketed in the last year and there are not enough foster homes. She commented that she was a Christian and yet she doesn't hear a lot about foster care and adoption; she wondered why more people don't investigate being foster parents.
I think that is an excellent question. I think there are two main reasons: 1) myths about foster care and foster kids, many of which are not completely true, and 2) desire not to have one's life inconvenienced or to experience emotional pain if/when foster children leave.
The nurse seemed genuinely interested in our conversation. Who knows where this discussion will lead? Maybe it was God's plan to have me in that office to talk with this nurse on the day when she was bored and the doctor was late. Let's hope I glorified Him and planted a seed that may grow into something to benefit some child down the road!
Today was Buddy's parent-teacher conference. He is lucky enough to have the same wonderful male teacher for 4th grade as he did in 1st grade. This teacher is a fabulous teacher and a fantastic role model as well. But he is also fairly quiet and reserved, so I wasn't quite sure how Buddy was really doing because I usually received little information when I asked any general question in passing.
It turns out Buddy got all A's except for one B+. He made the honor role for the first quarter and is doing very well. Buddy led the conference and told about all the work they are doing. He showed off his projects and accomplishments. When I asked about his behavior, his teacher said Buddy has only needed to be corrected three times during the entire quarter for minor things like talking when he shouldn't. The teacher said that Buddy was one of his favorite students (but asked Buddy not to repeat that) and a pleasure to have in his class again.
Really, what more could a mom ask for? I am so proud of Buddy.
I am amazed at the level of work they are doing. When there are only fourteen kids in a class and the teacher enjoys what he is doing, positive things happen. Praise God for such a thriving educational environment for Buddy!
Last night I organized for today's lunches since we had to get moving early this morning. Miss M is sick, so I was on my own to drop of May at 6:40, Buddy at 7:45, and BB and Precious with a friend about 30 minutes away before starting my day at the court. In preparation for the lunches, I set out peanut butter by the bread to make a sandwich in the moring.
Well, BB usually migrates to my bed somewhere between 4am and 6am, sometimes earlier. When I'm lucky, he climbs in and goes back to sleep. This morning he came in a little after 4am. As I gave him a hug and covered him up, I smelled peanut butter. I asked him, "Did you eat peanut butter?" He replied that he ate a sandwich, very proud of himself. When I surveyed the kitchen later, I don't think he actually had a sandwich, because the bread was still closed, but it had been moved. He did definitely clean up the almost empty peanut butter jar! It's lid was perched sideways on top of the jar.
Pretty resourceful two year old! Plenty of independence showing already!
That about sums it up. Somehow I managed to survive the insanity of the last two weeks.
Sweets is here for her extended fall break. She came on Friday two weeks ago and is staying through Sunday, except for the first Thursday night after choir until that Friday afternoon when I picked her back up. She had her annual doctor's appointment, got her flu vaccine, and had a dentist appointment.
BB also had a dentist appointment and a doctor's appointment where he got his flu vaccine. He is learning new ways to get into things every day! He loves to climb and can remember where he saw things to go back later and find them again. His latest trick is to get a pen or crayon and write on everything!
May has taken on a true teen personality, moods and all. She can be ever so helpful, but she can also give you the evil eye and show lots of attitude. She had half days both Fridays and went to the high school homecoming game tonight. She claims she is getting her homework done, but I am not riding her like I was before. Next week is parent-teacher conferences - we'll see!
Buddy is doing well, but he is short on sleep. He has managed to get his homework done, but too many times, it is late Thursday night before the last computer entry is made. Cub Scouts has been a positive influence on him, and he really enjoys it. This week marked the end of Lego Club after school on Wednesdays until January. That has been a lot of fun for him.
Sweets and Buddy swing 180 degrees constantly in how they get along. One minute they are fighting like cats and dogs; the next minute they are playing famously together. They are both jealous of the other for things beyond their control. Since Sweets has been here longer this time, their routine has been a little better.
Yesterday I updated on Precious. She is growing up so fast! She definitely wants personal attention and makes sure she doesn't miss anything happening around her. She has her nine month checkup at the end of the month.
Flu shots and dentist appointments are coming up for May and Buddy next week. They get next Thursday and Friday off for a short fall break. They have their Children's Chorus rehearsals on Tuesday nights (where I have been volunteering on the uniform committee to help outfit 300 kids) while Sweets has her rehearsals on the other side of town on Thursday nights. Next Saturday is their monthly combined rehearsal.
I've had three doctor's appointments over the last two weeks, and I have three more before the end of the month. I should fit in a dentist appointment somewhere, but that will probably end up waiting. I can expect a visit from Precious' case worker, my licensing worker, and a child therapist assigned to Precious before the end of the month as well. I finally have my taxes for last year ready to mail (nothing like procrastinating until the last minute), and I need to complete my foster care renewal paperwork in the next week or so.
Miss M was out of town for a family emergency most of last week, so our Friday babysitter and our former nanny from four years ago were able to fill in. This week Miss M has not been feeling well, but she is a trooper and still managed to be here most of the time. I am so thankful for her dedication to our family. She makes things run so much more smoothly, and there is no doubt about how much she loves the kids!
Tomorrow we go to a birthday party for a one of my former foster daughters who is turning eight nine (boy, time goes fast!). She was adopted by her grandma, and we see her several times a year. The kids enjoyed picking out some gifts for her and are excited about the party.
There is more, related to work, my externship for school, and my extended family. Suffice it to say that I could really use a few more hours in each day. I keep thinking that I am on the verge of things slowing down. Let's hope!
For now, I need to finish my list of the things I must accomplish tomorrow...
Precious has developed many new skills in the last couple of weeks. She can pull herself up to a standing position, especially next to the couch. She also immediately learned to walk a few steps along the couch. This all happened virtually right after learning to crawl. She is definitely mobile!
It looks like Precious is also going to have a rather independent personality. She knows what she wants and when she wants it. If she wants up, wants food, or doesn't like her diaper, we definitely hear about it! She is also starting to rebel about going into the carseat!
Precious is a great eater. She really likes her finger foods. She also chows on the stage 2 baby food. I'm thinking stage 3 really soon! She still likes her bottles, but milk is second to actual food.
BB and Precious are interacting a lot more. He can be so sweet and loving. But, unfortunately, he can turn on a dime and start hitting, pinching, or being rough with her. They definitely have a bond. Precious responds well to all of us. Her smile is adorable and her giggle infectious!
On the adoption front, there is still no good news about my adoption certification. It's been over seven weeks since it was submitted. Found out last Friday it was just passed to a new judge for approval?! I'm really hoping he reads it and signs it soon! I am so hoping to finalize this year.
Sweets' last day of school before fall break was Friday. Break comes early when you start school in July! I went to go pick her up, hoping to have her stay most of the week. Her dad wanted to know if I would also take Lil Sis and let her stay at the maternal aunt and uncle's house for a few days.
Umm, NO. They were never asked and I'm not attempting to drop her off there unannounced. I'm also not going to have her at my house for days if they can't take her.
I politely told him that I would ask if she could go next weekend. He seemed fine with that. Unbelieveable, really. He simply doesn't comprehend common courtesy at all.
When I went to pick up Sweets, they were at another house in the neighborhood. So, her dad gave her the keys to go get her backpack from their apartment. I took her to the apartment and waited inside while she collected her things.
Sweets asked if she could please bring her notebook computer that her dad had given her a couple weeks ago, early for her birthday. She went on to say that she was afraid her dad would sell it if she left it behind (a big yard sale was planned for the next day at the house where I picked her up).
I said sure, she could bring it. But then I asked why her dad would sell it right after he gave it to her. Her response, "That's just the way my dad is." How incredibly sad! She has officially passed him in intelligence.
The good news - she's here until at least Thursday! That night she has choir across town. I suggested to her dad that he pick her up from choir (keep him in the habit) and then I would pick her (and possibly Lil Sis) up next Friday. He was good with that, so Sweets is thrilled to be here almost a week!
She can routinely push herself to a sitting position with no help.
She's a master at scooting around in the walker.
Finger foods (cereal) have become a favorite!
She still likes the pacifier, but likes her fingers too.
She is a very happy baby, but I definitely see a temper emerging!
I have the adoption petition in hand to sign and send back to my attorney. All of the CPS paperwork is complete. If only my adoption certification would get signed! If we get it before October 12th, the waiting period can be waived and we can finalize on National Adoption Day in November. If not, our court date will likely be about 90 days after the petition is filed following the receipt of my certification. I would really like to complete this adoption this year. I'm not sure I'm up for the chaos associated with National Adoption Day at our juvenile courthouse (over 300 kids adopted there last year) but at this point, I'll take it in order to finalize this year. Let's hope my certification comes through in the next two weeks!
Sweets brought home a great progress report this week. She had "No missing work!" and a "Much better attitude about school." Her teacher also had her whole class give Sweets a bow on Friday because she wasn't late once and she turned in all her homework.
Total turnaround in less than two weeks. What's changed? Dad moved them back within walking distance of school, so Sweets sets her phone alarm to get up and get to school on time. I text and/or call her almost every day to remind her about homework and turning it in. That's it.
Sweets did it, pretty much all on her own. Someone just had to let her know it was important and then care to follow up. Great job, Sweets!
BB has had a Capital T few days. First, he managed to take apart my cell phone while in a shoe store and LOSE the battery and back of the phone. Fabulous! I searched up and down the aisles, looked under all the fixtures, and looked in all the open shoe boxes within his reach to no avail. I'm pretty sure someone will buy a pair of shoes and find a phone battery stuck inside one of them!
Then, today BB managed to lock himself and Precious IN the van WITH the keys as they were getting ready to leave for therapy. I was at the court for my externship and not reachable. The Friday babysitter called Miss M who came down to the court to locate me. In the meantime, she found one of my old AAA cards and called them, and they called the fire department. By the time I found out, it was all over and everyone was fine. Luckily the van was in the garage and it was not that hot yet this morning.
BB is non-stop motion. He is very smart and a great problem solver. Unfortunately, that means he figures out ways to prop things up so he can climb on the counter and get to the top of the refrigerator or search out the keys to be able to unlock the van so he can get in the garage and climb in. I have a safety lock on the front door as well as a security screen door which is kept dead-bolted to make sure he is not the toddler found roaming the neighborhood in the middle of the night!
I have been trying to simplify my life. To those of you who really know me, I'm sure you are laughing at this point. But truly, I have been working not to add anything new and have been trying to move at least one or two things off the platter.
IT'S NOT WORKING!!!
Every time I turn around, something new gets added! I don't choose it; it chooses me. Okay, I guess I sort of caused the speeding ticket, which necessitated defensive driving school (at least it could be completed online!), but really... 36mph on a three lane 25mph wide open access street at 6:50am in the morning! Can you say speed trap? Complaining aside, this is just one minor example of something that happened that added more to the plate. Thankfully, this one is already off (but I could have used those four hours more productively).
I am still trying to get adjusted to the new school year and coordinating all the schedules and activities. All of Buddy's homework is online. He doesn't have access to a computer with internet access unless he is supervised. Thankfully, Miss M has been letting him use her computer. Many times, my computer is not available until much later than he should be doing homework.
May's audio books are not available for an MP3 player this year. That format has been discontinued, and she needs either a i-device (which we don't have) or a full PC (which needs to be updated and shared with Buddy). Unfortunately, that one is still sitting in the middle of the plate and we are limping by in the meantime. The good news is that she claims she is successfully reading her textbooks and understanding them.
Sweets has become more needy from a distance. She is frequently texting me that she misses me and wants to be here. It is emotionally draining; I can't do anything about it. I try to "feed her meter" as another mom puts it, telling her she is doing a good job, reminding her it's not that long before she comes back, and trying to get her to focus on other things. It's hard trying to manage her schoolwork and activities from 45 minutes away!
Has anyone figured out how to find more than 24 hours in a day?
You have got to be kidding me! Fifth grade 1st quarter overall grade for Sweets was an F! She needs improvement in virtually every behavior category (listening, working independently, completing homework, staying on task, good use of time, self-discipline, etc.), but at least she was satisfactory working cooperatively, accepting responsibility, and respecting rules, rights and others.
The up side is that she met standards in all of her standardized testing for last year. In addition, she scored above average on the reading fluency at the beginning of this year.
Unfortunately, her grades this year are awful. According to Sweets, this is primarily because she doesn't turn in homework. She says it is often not done, because she gets home too late (yeah, 9+pm is too late on a school night and that is routine). The house she goes to after school is chaos with kids everywhere and little adult supervision. That is if her dad isn't driving her around for his priorities. She was late almost every day for the first three weeks of school. Not an overall conducive learning environment!
Sweets is smart. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if she is gifted-smart, but dad hasn't let her be tested. Sweets can do the work. The math may not be easy, but she can do it. The rest is probably easy if she just applies herself. Unfortunately, she is learning to be lazy. Now what?!
Is it just me, or is size 6-9 months virtually irrelevant? It seems like we just breeze by this size, almost not making it worth buying any clothes this size (thankfully many were passed down to Precious).
Both BB and Precious seem like they skipped straight from 3-6 months to 12 months clothing. Officially, the 6-9 month labels read that that they fit 16-18 pounds. I guess that's the issue. When my babies hit 16 pounds the next thing I knew they were both 19 pounds! It took only about a month in each case. In addition, I guess my little ones are long. Some of the 6-9 month one piece items are too short even at 16 pounds!
Precious still has a few 3-6 month items that fit and a few more 6-9 month items we can probably stretch for another couple weeks. As for the winter size 6-9 month clothing, I don't think she will be wearing it. It is still 100 degrees here!
Last weekend I pulled out two boxes from a closet marked "Girls <= 12 months" and found several 12 month outfits. It was a jackpot! This is in addition to some items passed on from friends. What a blessing!
It was fun remembering some of the clothes in these boxes, as Sweets wore them when she first came. She was in size 12 months when she arrived at 8 months old. I thought she was a BIG baby! If so, BB and Precious are just as BIG!
Monday: Go to specialist appointment with May at 7:30am; drop her off at school; go to work; swing by home to pick May up for Meet the Teacher night at her Junior High until 9pm.
Tuesday: Vote; drop Rx off at pharmacy for May; go to court for externship; meet May and Buddy at Children's Chorus and attend a mandatory parents' meeting; return home about 8:30pm.
Wednesday: Go to work; leave early to take Precious to well-check doctor's appointment (Buddy tagged along); make follow-up calls for kids' appointments; swing by home and talk briefly to kids at dinnertime; pick up Rx; Buddy went to Cub Scouts; go to hair appointment, getting home late again.
Thursday: Go to work; leave early to go to my doctor's appointment; make multiple phone calls to verify Sweets made it to her Children's Chorus on her side of town; go to May's school for special education orientation; my parents visited us for dinner after their extended summer vacation.
Friday: Go to court for externship; leave early to go to diagnostic test appointment across town; drive about an hour home in rush hour traffic; pick up kids and meet friend for dinner; drop May off to spend night at a friend's; sort little girl clothes to give to another foster home; collapse!
And, this doesn't list all of the routine stuff like laundry, meals, dishes, school paperwork, paying bills, grocery store, bedtime, etc. Praise the Lord that Miss M is back from her vacation and always extremely helpful!
Precious is now seven months old, but today was her six month check up at the pediatrician. She 19 pounds! Baby food really agrees with her and she is growing like gangbusters! She is starting to outgrow her 6-9 month clothes.
She can now sit up on her own pretty well. She has also started rolling across the floor. She likes to stand when held up. She has four chompers in her mouth with more on the way. She can hold a toy in one hand. Occasionally she will use two hands to keep a toy in her mouth. She will hold her bottle when reclined or laying down. She will babble and laugh with glee! She sleeps great!
Precious is such a sweet little big baby! I am so glad she joined our family!
Last night I drove Sweets home back to her dad's. (She makes sure to let everyone know her home is with mom, not dad!) We were a little later than usual, but I was fortunate and had a friend volunteer to stay with the other kids so they could get to bed.
It is about 40 miles to Sweets' house from mine, and it takes 40-45 minutes to get there. About 8:15pm, I called her dad to let him know we were almost there. He didn't answer. At 8:29pm, I called again. This time he answered and I told him I was in front of his house.
He said he was in the neighborhood and would be there in 10 minutes. I asked him if he could please come any faster. He said 5 minutes, and we hung up. At 8:47pm, he finally pulls in. Sad part is, it probably would have been even later if I hadn't asked him to come faster!
He gets out of his car by himself. No Lil Sis! At least he was in a good mood! Bad news is that he had to go "pick up" Lil Sis still. I'm not sure where she was (probably at a friend's or cousin's), but why wasn't she at home at almost 9pm on a school night? Sweets is in 5th grade, but Lil Sis is only in 1st grade. It's no wonder they are both tired at school!
If this were an isolated incident, it would not be a big deal, but this is almost a weekly occurrence. That's a perfect case of parenting to minimally adequate standards, all the law requires to return a child to a parent!
I must be certified to adopt in order to have my attorney file the petition to adopt with the court. Precious' case is eligible for an adoption hearing 90 days after the adoption petition is filed. Unfortunately, now I need to wait until I am recertified to adopt before the petition can be filed.
The adoption case manager indicated that it can take up to three months for the certification to be approved. My attorney said it is only taking about three weeks from the time the request is filed with the court for the judge who approves my residence region. I really hope it doesn't take 2+ months from the time my licensing agency files with the state agency to go to the court. Bottom line, it will likely be one to three months before being able to file the adoption petition.
The worst of this is that the adoption attorney told me today that had she known my certification was about to expire, we could have filed during the last month. I didn't NEED to wait until the case transferred to adoptions! Live and learn. Last time, I was told to call back after the adoption case manager got the case, but then I had a brand new certification and was in no hurry because I wanted to complete developmental testing for BB first.
I'm hoping we can file in September. I would really like to have this adoption done by the end of the year!
This afternoon I had a doctor's appointment, but I had forgotten something at home that I needed to take. So I left work a little early in order to run home on the way. While at home, the phone rang. I'm compulsive about not missing a phone call, so I answered it...
It was the CPS Adoption Unit.
They had received Precious' case, and the new adoption case manager was calling to set up a home visit! Unbelievably, she came out this evening and brought the adoption paperwork packet. We are one step closer!
Unfortunately, due to some arbitrary assignment protocol and CPS dividing all case managers and all cases into two categories, the adoption case manager that has handled my three previous adoptions cannot handle this case since it is in the opposite arbitrary category. Ugh! I'm so disappointed. It is obvious that both my former adoption case manager and the new one are not happy either, since the reverse has occurred with the new adoption case manager and some of her former families. Classic case of policy getting in the way of common sense! Oh well, the new case manager seems nice and is a cube mate of my former adoption case manager.
There must have been a Master plan today, because had I not answered that call, it would have been at least another week before I could have scheduled tonight's home visit! We are on the move!
The first week of school for May and Buddy is going well. They both enjoy seeing their friends again. Neither has had much homework, but May is willingly stepping up without having to be nagged by mom. Sweets is still liking school and her teacher. We are all trying to stay organized.
This weekend is choir camp for Children's Chorus for the oldest three. I'm going as well and serving on the uniform committee like the last four years. May made the touring choir this year. She is really excited. Buddy and Sweets return to the prep choir. I'll need to get them all early from school this afternoon. A super babysitter is staying with BB and Precious. I know they will be spoiled!
Precious was evaluated for developmental delays three weeks ago at the same place BB goes for OT and speech therapy. She was diagnosed with delays in both gross and fine motor skills, low muscle tone, and poor trunk control (layman's terms). They got the report written up, sent to the doctor, and approved by insurance in two weeks. Can I just say that is amazing? Precious started OT this week. She will receive therapy twice a week, the same days as BB. It's unfortunate that she needs this as a result of her exposure in utero, but I'm so glad she is getting services so early. Hopefully, she will meet all her goals and be considered "mainstream" before she starts kindergarten like Buddy did.
On another note, I received a call from the case manager's supervisor saying Precious' case had been transferred to the adoption unit on Tuesday. Wasn't that supposed to happen mid-July?! Anyway, I called the adoptions worker and she hasn't located the case yet. Hopefully next week we can start the adoption paperwork.
My licensing specialist came out for my annual renewal visit for my foster care license. It's so nice to have been with the same agency and same licensing specialist for so long. I remember when this was a stressful time. Now it is routine and reasonably quick. I still need to do the online reapplication and budget (yuck!), but otherwise, everything is turned in (two months early!).
May started school today. I think she had a good first day back. It's so hard for me to believe she is in eighth grade. Next year will be high school. How fast time flies!
Buddy starts on Wednesday. Tonight was Meet the Teacher for him. His fourth grade teacher was also his first grade teacher, and Buddy loves him!
Both kids are virtually required to have a computer with internet to do their homework. So far, I have not allowed internet access unless they are monitored, and then only from my computer. The others in the house can't access the internet. Guess it's time to move into this century...
Today was not a very productive day. That's okay, after a busy and stressful week.
This week I completed the hours for my externship with the juvenile court judge. She is wonderful, passionate, and amazing. She is changing the court system for foster children under three, having success (while working herself like crazy), and proving many people wrong. Baby Court is now over a year old and word is spreading. Permanency planning occurs at four months; get your act together. Parents better be progressing and CPS better be doing their job! For those parents who can't or won't step up, the kids are moving to adoption. I have seen several cases where babies are legally free in six to nine months. I have also seen cases where babies are moving back with their parents (albeit still monitored) in less than a year. We know both options are necessary in our world today. The good news is that the decision is now on baby time, not adult time.
Last night I picked up both Sweets and Lil Sis. Their dad offered last weekend to allow Lil Sis to go see the maternal family she had been placed with while in foster care. This is the first time he has let her see them since Christmas. She has asked me almost every time she saw me this summer when I would take her too. I'm glad he followed through after he brought it up last weekend.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get to their place until about 7:30pm to pick them up. We really needed to eat dinner, so I opted to go out before driving the 40 miles home. May went to a friend's house for an overnight birthday party, so five kids under ten and I went to Ol:ve G@rden for dinner. It was a sight (about made the hostess fall over), but the kids were really pretty good. Everyone had been warned and was on their best behavior, plus they were hungry! We had a great waiter and left for home after 9pm.
It was a late night. Lil Sis needed some reassuring at bedtime, but she slept well. BB was up early this morning, so today was another long day. I dropped Sweets and Lil Sis off before 9am; they are staying until I pick them up for church tomorrow morning.
Buddy, BB, Precious and I spent some time chilling at a friend's house this morning. It is another foster family, so we always feel welcome and I don't worry about what the kids might do. When it was time to leave, the van's battery was dead. We jumped it and made it home, a fairly lengthy drive. Due to the long drive to allow it to charge and the fact that I have a charger/starter at home, I didn't worry.
Unfortunately, when it was time to pick up May, dead battery shows off again. It was REALLY dead. It wouldn't charge at all, nor did the starter have enough juice. Luckily, my car that I drive to work did jump it.
We picked up May (leaving the car running) and then went to the store where I bought the battery. When they pulled the battery out, the sides were bulging! So thankful we didn't have a worse problem than not starting! Over an hour later the replacement (upgrade) was finally finished (apparently ours got delayed out of order - not fun with two cranky little kids).
It's been a long day and I really didn't accomplish anything I planned, but it was nice to relax this morning. It was also nice to not get stranded in no man's land with a battery about to explode.
Tomorrow is another day. After church, we'll see how much I can get done with six kids before the two girls have to go home.... Did I mention school starts this week?
he admitted he was wrong about a "law" requiring adoption papers to be carried
he agreed that questioning should cease when the answer is "Yes" to "Are you mom?"
he declared their policy would change soon with appropriate training to follow
he indicated the staff member who saw me Monday has been identified and will be "retrained"
Apparently, there were discussions with higher ups today that acknowledged a need to change. He stated that when a person declares themself to be a parent, "it is not our business to investigate further."
Bottom line - he is going to revise their policy! I told him I would follow up in a few weeks to understand their new policy!
This supervisor was extremely respectful and courteous and even encouraged me to bring my daughter back for a complementary physical. Since school final registration is tomorrow, I took him up on the offer tonight. It was a very pleasant experience.
Today I did receive a call from the Urgent Care supervisor after last night's incident. He was very apologetic about how things were handled and wanted to be sure to understand my side of the story. I walked him through line by line.
At first he was upset about the way the questions were asked, not necessarily about the fact that they were asked. I focused him back on my original question: Is it your policy to ask ALL parents if their child is adopted? If not, asking purely based on appearance is unacceptable.
The supervisor stated that they needed to make sure that an adult has the right to seek treatment for a given child; that is why they request the adoption paperwork. I told him I understood that they needed to confirm that, and if there was a statement or a document that caused question, I could understand them asking for proof. I said what I don't agree with is asking for proof based solely on looks. I stated I was fairly sure that if my daughter looked like me, the questioning would have stopped with "Are you mom?"
I told him that I am also a foster parent and am fully aware that I need to care proof that I can seek medical treatment for my foster children, because I am NOT mom. I stated that I didn't feel the need to carry proof for my daughter who was adopted over nine years ago.
He then said I should be carrying proof, that it was state law. I asked him to reference the law. He indicated my adoption paperwork should have indicated that I needed to carry it with me. I told him my adoption paperwork says that this child is now legally my child with all the rights and responsibilities as if she had been born to me.* He said he would have to get back to me, but that he would call me tomorrow.
He told me he was going to provide additional training to the employee involved and that he would be revisiting their policy on this issue. I suggested that, barring warranted suspicion, after the answer is "Yes" to "Are you mom?", no more questions should be asked, regardless of how the family looks. Perhaps to cover themselves, they should have all parents sign a check-in document that states they are legally allowed to seek treatment for this child. I told him I have signed such a document at another nighttime pediatric urgent care that I have used on several occasions. He liked that idea and thanked me for the suggestion.
I then went one further and told him that if there was a legitimate reason to ask for proof, they should be asking for a birth certificate, not adoption paperwork. The birth certificate has my name and my daughter's name and could be asked for when it was not an adoptive parent as well. I said I did not feel the need to bring out my daughter's adoption paperwork (and references to her birth name and parents in front of her) to prove I am her parent. Yes, she knows she is adopted, but all those details don't need to be shared just to get a physical.
The supervisor said he understood my perspective and it was time to update their policy. I thanked him and said that was my goal when I called last night. Times have changed. I told him I looked forward to his next call with the answer to the "law" he referenced.
Perhaps all that happened was for a good reason. Now, if I can just get her a physical before school registration on Thursday!
*Upon further investigation, my adoption order simply says this adult and minor child "shall and do bear toward each other the relationship of parent and child." However, I specifically remember the judge using the language above during the adoption hearing.
May needs a physical for school final registration on Thursday. Yes, that is in three days and I haven't done anything about it yet. Even if I could get her an appointment with her pediatrician, then we would be in a bind next year because insurancce will only pay for one physical per year. Since she has had a couple non-well-check appointments recently, I just haven't worried about the physical.
So, I decided to take her to an advertised walk-in Urgent Care that offers fast, cheap school/sports/camp physicals. We walked in and there was only one other family in the waiting room and one person in line - good start.
We got up to the counter, and the girl there asked who needed to be seen. I pointed to May beside me and said she needs a school physical and showed the form from school.
Girl: Photo ID and Insurance, please.
Me: Do you want my photo ID? She doesn't have one. Insurance won't cover it. You advertised $25.
Girl: I don't need the insurance card. Your ID is fine. Are you Mom?
G: Is she adopted?
G: Do you have the court order?
M: Yes, at home.
G: We need a copy.
M: I didn't bring it.
G: We can't see her without it. It's our policy.
M: Would you ask me that question if she were Caucasian?
G: Don't pull the race card on me. (rather hostile)
M: Would you ask me that question if she looked like me?
G: Don't you have the paperwork?
M: Yes, but I'm not driving 10 miles home to get it.
G: Then we can't see her.
M: I have her immunization record and her insurance card.
G: We need the court paperwork. It's our policy.
I was really steaming by this point. WE LEFT!
From the car, I called their main phone number, and when the lady asked how she could help me, I said I have only one question: Is it your policy to ask ALL parents if their child is adopted?
I told her I just made a special trip to their Urgent Care for a student physical and was refused service because my daughter is a different race than I am and I didn't bring court paperwork with me. She apologized and said it was their policy to require court paperwork when a child is adopted. I pointedly said, that was not my question. My question is DO YOU ASK ALL PARENTS IF THEIR CHILD IS ADOPTED?
She asked if I wanted to leave a message for the supervisor. I told her I did and left a pointed voice mail message about their policy requesting a callback tomorrow. Unless you ask ALL parents if their child is adopted, don't ask me to prove she is my child.
I'm tempted to go to another one of their clinics tomorrow with her official birth certificate, although I shouldn't have to have that either. If she looked like me, I am virtually certain the questioning would have stopped with "Are you mom?" Next time, I'll be half tempted to answer "No" to "Is she adopted?" to see what they do then!
I just wish I would have turned to the single race family in the waiting room and asked them loudly, "Did they ask you if your child was adopted?"
We'll see what the supervisor has to say tomorrow. If he indicates they ask all parents (which I'm sure they don't), I'm tempted to take BB in and see if they ask me if he is adopted! Probably not worth the effort!
Sweets was a handful this weekend. She wasn't able to come last weekend, so she had been at her dad's with virtually no rules and minimal sleep for almost two weeks, compounded with the first two weeks of school. I was able to pick her up earlier than expected on Friday afternoon, but her aunt told me she had been misbehaving with some of the other kids earlier in the week. Her aunt didn't tell her dad, because she knows Sweets listens more to me and her dad just gets mad. Unfortunately, her dad overheard and got mad anyway. She was still allowed to come with me, since I was already there.
It started on the way home as she complained about being hungry, but then didn't like any of the options for dinner. I think she just needed to vent. Her legs were covered in bug bites and she had scratched one place almost raw. I told her she needed to take a shower as soon as we got home so I could put medicine on her legs and hopefully they would stop itching. She fussed about the shower. She fussed about every topic that came up. I should have seen the signs and just put her to bed quickly Friday night, but I didn't.
Saturday came and it started again while we were getting portraits of Precious. Sweets did well until Buddy wanted attention too. Then the two of them escalated, couldn't keep their hands to themselves, gave dirty looks, and said mean things. Sweets also gave BB anything and everything he wanted, just to make him happy. This included candy at breakfast time, snacks without asking, and Buddy's DS player. So now all three of them were upset as things got corrected. Thankfully, May was helpful, but she was frustrated too.
Later in the day, as I took the kids to meet friends to go bowling, Sweets decided she didn't want to participate. Then she did; then she didn't. I finally lashed out at her and her comeback (not that it hadn't been said earlier) was that she wished she didn't come with me and she never wanted to come back. Ugh! How that rips your heart out when you know it isn't true but you can feel her hurt.
She improved a little during dinner, mostly thanks to May. But she was on the edge the rest of the evening. By then she was just pushing my buttons left and right. I was able to get her in bed by 9pm and she slept over ten hours straight. She needed that so much!
Today was a better day. It wasn't great, but it was definitely better. Church went well and both Sweets and Buddy enjoyed Sunday School. The sermon was about service and how that was what Jesus asked of us. It was mentioned that the jr/sr high youth group is focusing on various service projects this fall. It is a shift in focus after hiring an associate pastor to lead the youth. Several other church youth groups are investing in multimedia and other high tech draws to build their youth groups. It is refreshing to me that ours is not focused on that. It is even better that May agrees!
Lunch was spaghetti with homemade sauce, Sweets' favorite. That helped too. I did make everyone rest for a while during BB's nap. Sweets and Buddy managed to get along for a while after that.
This evening we had a nice time swimming at the house of the friend Buddy made during our Alaska cruise. It is still unbelievable to me that Buddy and this friend hit it off on the cruise (with only seven kids age 8-12 on the whole ship) and the friend's family lives about four miles from Sweets! This family is great with very similar values to ours. In addition to Buddy's friend, they have a four year old daughter that played well with BB. It was nice to relax.
Sweets went home well after that. She was in a much better mood and was looking forward to coming back next Friday. I think we will go to bed early that night! Her dad was in a good mood when I dropped her off and even asked if I might take Lil Sis to go see her aunt and uncle next weekend. This is a very positive development. Of course, I'm realistic that this could change at any time, but let's hope for a good weekend next week!
Today we went to have portraits taken of Precious.
The good news: they turned out fantastic! I bought a package which included the CD and the rights to reproduce. I use Sea*rs with a very specific photographer. We even got this blog-friendly pose accidentally! I love all the different choices.
The bad news: Precious is over six months old and these are her first formal portraits. I have never waited that long to have pictures taken for any foster child. Worse yet, I knew from early on that she was likely staying, so I should have had many taken by now. Bad mom; bad, bad mom.
Last week May attended a sewing class sponsored by a local Quilters An*nymous group. The girls went M-F afternoons for three hours. May and her friend were able to participate together and made some fabulous projects.
May first made a pillowcase which she now uses every night. The detailed edging is a hint of the quilting group!
Her second project was this fancy potholder which she proudly displays whenever we need to put something hot on the table.
May then made this clutch purse which she has started carrying. It is strips of fabric sewn together and has a self-snapping top made from an old metal tape measure. How clever!
Here May is displaying her fourth project, her own apron, which she wore while cooking fried zucchini the other day with Miss M. They did receive a fifth project which was a shoulder bag, but they didn't have time to finish it. Hopefully we can get to it soon.
She had a great time (and a very productive one as well)! May is quite talented and interested when it comes to old school homemaking skills. She loves to cook, sew, knit, and ??? Wonder what will be next?
Talked with Sweets tonight. So glad her first week of school is going well. I asked her about picking her up tomorrow, and she told me her dad said she couldn't go with me or he wouldn't get her a puppy. Really, again? These games are getting so old.
I asked Sweets what happened every other time her dad got her a dog (at least four times so far). Her reply, "he takes it away." I told her it was her choice. Arghh! Why does a nine year old have to be in the middle of this?
Sweets started school yesterday. She was apprehensive, because she wasn't sure who would be her teacher. Tonight I finally had a chance to talk with her. When I asked how she liked 5th grade, she told me it was the BEST EVER! She likes her teacher and said she has had two great days. She also told me she gets to be in band. She thinks she will get to play flute! I'm excited and happy for her!
Six months ago today, Precious joined our family. She is just that, PRECIOUS!
I really thought BB would be the last permanent addition, but God had other plans. Although their birth mother did show some interest with Precious, she couldn't follow through. I'm sad for her; she doesn't know what she is missing. I do think she knows that her little ones are being well cared for.
It is amazing that Precious was legally free for adoption before she was six months old. That is practically a record in the child welfare system. I'm so happy that some of the changes in our court system ("baby court") are working to achieve permanency sooner for these little ones.
I have been an extern at the court this summer for law school in a division of this new "baby court". Precious' case is no longer an exception. TPR is happening quickly more and more often when parents either give up or simply don't follow through. In my state, parents of children under three only have six months to demonstrate they can safely parent their children. After that, a motion for TPR can be filed based on six months time-in-care (15 months is grounds for children three and older). More time is often allowed if the parents are actively participating in services, but those who "play games" and pick and choose what they do will soon be done.
Fortunately, the flip side is also happening for families where the parents work hard to get their children returned. In some cases, those children are going home in less than a year, another timeframe that used to almost never occur. CPS is held accountable to provide the services and do their job. It is up to the parents to make their choice. If they do what is asked, they will likely succeed. If they decide not to follow the rules and complete the services offered to them, the court will make an alternate permanency decision for these young children at the six month point, and the case will move to adoption.
Finally, the best interests of the child is driving the case, at least in the area of timelines. Less and less are parents able to do "just enough" to drag the case out and leave their children in limbo. Isn't this what should have been happening all along? If you want your kids back, WORK FOR IT. Having someone else take care of them so you can visit them twice a week and party the rest of the time is not parenting. I'm glad to say that the judges in our "baby court" now have this philosophy as well.