About two weeks after our Bonus Kiddo went home I got a text from the caseworker. I had forgotten to take Bonus Kiddo's Home to Home binder with him. I actually hadn't forgotten, I was just too green to know it was supposed to go. The Home to Home binder is supposed to go with each foster child to every home they're placed in. Hopefully they're only ever placed in one home but in the event they're moved around it helps to have all the information in the binder. It's where we keep inventory of their possessions, receipts from buying them clothes, medical forms and forms foster parents need as proof that we're their guardians.
I grabbed the binder and went to give it to Bonus Kiddo's mom right away. When I arrived at the facility she was staying at she just happened to walk by the front door as I was walking in.
"Hi!" She excitedly greeted me. :)
I apologized for not bringing the binder with him and she thanked me for bringing it. A friend of hers walked by and she introduced me.
"This is [Bonus Kiddo]'s foster mom!" It felt so good. She was still thankful for my roll, so thankful that she actually enjoyed showing me off to her friends. :)
"Do you want to see him?" she asked me.
"Yes!" I answered, and she ran off to get him. How fantastic that we happened to cross paths. I was just going to walk in and drop the binder off with the front desk but now I was getting to see our Bonus Kiddo!
She walked up the stairs holding her plump, sleeping baby in her arms. He was perfection. :) She handed him to me and I soaked him in. He'd gained weight and looked great. :) She and I talked for a little bit while I stood there holding him. She let me know an errand I could run that would really help and I obliged. It was a simple errand and it would help both of them. I ran to the grocery store down the road and then back to Bonus Kiddo's mom.
I got back to Bonus Kiddo's mom and we talked a bit more - that's when my heart dropped. She asked me some questions about his care and what I did to help him with certain things. We had small talk.
Something was wrong. She wasn't okay and I knew it. It didn't matter what she was saying, she might as well have said to my face, "I'm not okay."
The light, the hope, the sparkle that had been in her eyes when I brought Bonus Kiddo to her two weeks earlier was gone. Before me was a tired mom trying to fight too many things at once and doing it nearly alone. I knew how hard it was to care for her little boy and I even had the help of my husband. Even with Daniel helping me when I needed a break I still found myself drained in every way. She was exhausted, she needed help.
I left, drove about a block away, then pulled to the side of the road and called the caseworker. "She needs help. She needs SOMETHING." I had an idea. "What if we offer to take him for respite at night so she can get some sleep. Everything is harder when you haven't slept." His mom was living less than a mile from us so it would be easy to pick him up each night and drop him off each morning. "If she could just get some sleep," I thought, "she'll be able to handle everything else".
I thought it was a good solution. Help her get some solid sleep for a few nights and she'd be reinvigorated. A few nights of good sleep could go a long way to help her. The caseworker thought it was a decent idea and said she'd look into it.
The call ended and I started sobbing in my car on the side of the road. It felt like the happy ending to our first case was crumbling away. It felt like HER happy ending was slipping from her grasp. She had really only said one thing that gave any hint of how she was truly doing but I knew I could trust my instinct on this. I didn't want this for her! I wanted her to be happy, healthy and strong! How could she fight all of this though? What chance did she have? I was limited in what I could do though. I focused on being able to at least give her sleep.
I made it home, crying the whole way, parked in the driveway and called a friend. This was a friend I met a few years ago through the adoption world and we were both now foster moms. I sobbed and told her what had happened, that nothing had REALLY happened but that I KNEW something was very wrong. She consoled me and gave me some ideas. I don't think anyone can comfort a foster parent the way another foster parent can. We all hurt, we all see and hear awful things and then we have to keep them almost entirely confidential. This friend has been a lifesaver for me.
I let Daniel know what had happened and he agreed that offering to take Bonus Kiddo for a few nights seemed like a great idea. I started to feel silly. Really, what good was a few nights of sleep going to do? Against everything his bio parents were fighting I was offering a paltry few nights of sleep? I felt naive, like I was a fool for thinking it would make any difference at all. I grappled with myself thinking, "you're a foolish girl who doesn't know what she's doing. You look like an idiot offering something that will do no good." Then I'd think, "I have to do SOMETHING and doing a paltry something is better than doing nothing at all." So as dumb as I started to think my idea was I decided to commit to it because it was something I could offer.
I carried on with the rest of my day as usual. Daniel and I were watching shows late that night when my phone rang. It was the caseworker. I immediately knew something was wrong. Caseworkers don't call at 10pm without it being urgent.
She was really apologetic. "I need you to meet me. We need to remove [Bonus Kiddo]." She explained to me what had happened during the rest of the day after my visit with Bonus Kiddo's mom. She was already on her way from her home and needed about 45 minutes before she'd be there. I said I'd meet her then. I hung up and told Daniel that Bonus Kiddo was coming back and I needed to go get him in about 40 minutes. We spent that time getting a few things ready to receive him so he could be put to bed as soon as he got home.
I don't want to write about his removal. It was absolutely necessary...he needed to be removed. I didn't feel a lot while I was there to take him. I tried to stay focused on my role. If you try to think about everything that everyone else is feeling and doing then it's too overwhelming, so I focused on my role. I was there as Bonus Kiddo's foster mom. I was there to bring him home.
Bonus Kiddo and I were the first one's to leave the building while the others stayed behind. I walked out into the dark November night holding a sleeping Bonus Kiddo wrapped in a blanket in my arms.