Children & Parenting

Christmas Gifts & Foster Children

Angel Trees. Those trees you see every year around the holidays, covered with tags on which are written the names, ages, and wishlists of children in need.

You’ve seen them, right??   They can typically be found in the malls as well as at your local Walmart, Kmart, and various other department stores.

Name: Michael  

Age: 10  

Wish list: Skateboard, Xbox games, iPod…

For a number of years I bought gifts for the children on these trees.  I turned it into a family event.  I would take my children to the mall where we would carefully choose one or two children from the tree, then we would go shop for those children together.  I had this image in my head of these poor children who aren’t going to get anything for Christmas, and those children deserve a good Christmas.  What a simple thing I can do to put a smile on those kids faces.

My husband and I relied on charity once for Christmas.  I was shocked by the number of gifts they gave us for our children.  We felt like we had hit the jackpot, and we were incredibly grateful that so many people were willing to give of their time and money to help us out in our time of need.

When we reached the point when we could afford to give back, we did so.  Every year.

At this point I never thought to distinguish between a one-time need or temporary situation vs. more long-term situations.  I also never considered the difference between low-income families vs. children in foster care.

Recently I have been working for companies that do gift drives for foster children every year for the holidays.  They “sponsor” a foster child, and everyone in the office buys for that child.  Some organizations just buy gifts for an organization that passes them on to foster children.

Until recently I always tried to help out with these drives.

I’m going to express to you what is likely to be a very unpopular opinion on giving gifts to foster children.

I will start by saying that I believe that everyone should give in whatever way they feel is appropriate and in whatever way they can.  Whether that be by giving gifts for the holidays, as is so popular, or by giving money to, or volunteering your time at, these organizations that work with these children.

I do not criticize the manner in which people give, and I applaud any efforts that are put towards helping innocent children who have been affected by horrific circumstances beyond their own control in their lives.

Personally, my family has decided to no longer give gifts to foster children.

I think we all have this image in our heads of these poor children, and we have this desire to provide them with a wonderful Christmas.  It’s what we want for our own children, and it is wonderful to imagine the smile on their face when they open those gifts.  And these children most certainly deserve a wonderful Christmas, I’m not denying that.

However, these kids don’t *need* gifts.  These children need stability, they need people in their lives who truly care and want the best for them, they need adults to encourage them and increase their feeling of self-worth, they need to feel loved and valued and important.  They do not need an iPod, an xbox game, or a skateboard.

We can never know the particular circumstances of a child we give to, so the end result is entirely out of our control, which is why I say it’s still good to give even though I personally choose not to.  But, unfortunately, some of these children are showered with more gifts than you can possibly imagine.  And our own experience of Christmas, if we’ve never lived in foster care, is not adequate to process the potential end result of such a focus on materialistic things.  The excitement and satisfaction we experience when we open those longed for gifts while surrounded by loving and supportive family members, it’s nothing like the short lived satisfaction that those same gifts will bring to an overwhelmingly unhappy child who is searching for happiness and can only seem to find it in that iPod.

Studies have been done that show that children are highly susceptible to being influenced by advertisements when they are unhappy.  Children who do not have a solid basis in life, who are not satisfied with their home life, their family, friends, school, etc., are much more likely to search for happiness elsewhere, and are much more likely to believe the TV commercials that tell them that happiness can be found in a Barbie Doll.  This can lead to materialism, a search for acceptance and status based on the clothes a person wears or the electronics they carry in their pockets.  This materialism may seem harmless in a child, and it may lead to a temporary happiness in an extremely difficult time, but it leads to a much less than satisfactory adult life.

I’m not a psychiatrist, and I don’t claim to have all the answers.  But if foster children are not unhappy with the foundation of their lives, I don’t know who else would better fit this description.

Yes, the kids deserve Christmas.  No, you can’t know what affect those presents will have on whatever child receives them.  Yes, giving is good.

So continue to give.  The children thank you.

I choose to help in different ways.

Please respect that.

If you are able to give in other ways, I encourage you to research the various ways you can make a real difference in the lives of these children.  Be a volunteer or a mentor.  Foster.  Adopt.  Or give financially to the organizations that contribute to this cause in ways other than just giving gifts.

Categories: Adoption, Children & Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just don’t know what to say…

I know that it’s oddly ironic that I haven’t blogged since I wrote the blog about whether or not I should continue blogging…

Fact is, I just don’t know what to say right now.

Sometimes I feel like I have too much to say and I’m able to put it all into words.  Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say.  And sometimes, like right now, I have so much to say that I just don’t know where to start.

A lot has happened since I last posted.

  • My 17th anniversary passed right on by.
  • The child we have been visiting with was officially placed with us… meaning: our new daughter moved in.
  • I had a major project at work partially approved…
  • The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “ObamaCare”.
  • I skipped a party last weekend that I had already agreed to attend, and I now feel horribly guilty about it.
  • I was confronted with just one more obstacle in my attempts to become a Guardian ad Litem.
  • Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise…  I generally don’t care about celebrity relationships, but this one involves Scientology!!
  • We bought a new freezer.

I just don’t know what to say about all that.  I have a lot to say, but at the same time I just don’t know what to say.  It’s a lot, and yet…  it’s rather insignificant.  In the grand scheme of things, at least.

Maybe I’ll start picking my way through that list and I’ll write about each one…  soon.

Just not tonight.

Categories: Adoption, All About Ellen Cabot, Government & Politics, Love ♥ Marriage | Leave a comment

Think before you speak.

I almost deleted my blog today.

I was sitting here last night, in my normal spot at the dining room table, with my oldest kid sitting right across from me, and I was considering the possibility of writing for a small local online news source.  They’re just starting up, they don’t have a lot of contributors, they are trying to keep things interesting and active on the site.  If I could manage to get on board as an approved contributor, well, I could use the extra money!  Plus, writing is something I enjoy doing.  Never hurts to make a bit of money off of something you enjoy doing as a hobby, right?  I got paid to write for a little while…  For families.com.  It lasted a few months, then I stopped.  I was expected to write all the time about specific topics, and I couldn’t keep it up.  So I gave up, I walked away from it.  But, if I got paid to write before it doesn’t seem too crazy to think that maybe I could get paid to write again…  right?

So I was trying to come  up with topics to write about, and I had a couple ideas, but the one I was focusing on late last night was one I decided I wouldn’t be able to keep up with.  I don’t want to get myself into the same situation I found myself in with families.com, feeling required to write about a specific topic and being unable to continue writing about that one topic and getting frustrated and giving up.  So I decided against that.

My wonderful child, whom I love with all my heart, actually says to me that I’m right…  that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, that I would do it for a few months and then quit…  like I did with the blogging…  like I’m, apparently, expected to do with this blogging too.

I appreciate honesty, but…

Since those words were spoken I’ve been thinking about them.  I’ve been thinking about things I have given up on vs. things I have followed through with.  It’s true that lately I have been giving up more than following through… I gave up on the paid blogging gig, healthy eating and my exercise routine (multiple times on that one, actually), promises to watch various TV shows and movies regularly with all of my kids… I gave up on running, biking, photography, starting my own neighborhood watch program…

Lately I do give up a lot.  It’s true.

But there have been quite a few things I have followed through with.  I finished school, I’ve consistently stuck with my career choice (for better or worse).  I ran an Internet debate forum for almost two years and when I finally left that group it was not my own decision to do so, I stuck with them until the very (nasty) end.  When I was 17 and pregnant, I stuck with two jobs long enough to pay my medical bills on my own.  When my marriage was in trouble, I stuck with my husband and endured much pain and heartache to keep my family together.

Lately I have been uncertain.  I’ve been feeling lost, and I’ve been in need of an outlet of some sort.  I’ve been in need of something to occupy my time and keep my focus.  I have been searching for that something, trying this and that, and, for now at least, I have chosen blogging.  And possibly writing for this local site.  And because of those few words, those few very inconsiderate and not well thought out words, I actually considered giving that up.

Because clearly, right now, I’m expected to fail.

So I have a few things to say about that…

  1. It’s normally not a good idea to make assumptions without having all the facts.
  2. Never assume you have all the facts.
  3. Stop believing that your narrow little view of the world, as seen through your limited experiences, defines the whole world and everyone in it.
  4. Always remember that while it is possible to over-think things, it’s also possible to under-think things.  Find a healthy balance between speaking your mind and pissing off or offending others.

I think I’m going to continue blogging.

No guarantees, though.

Categories: All About Ellen Cabot, Children & Parenting | 5 Comments

OMG Make it STOP!

I was planning for today to be relatively relaxing.  We had to do some general cleaning (a couple loads of laundry and the usual daily stuff), we needed to go shopping but the hubby usually handles that, and that was about it.  Well, and the hour and a half of driving we had to do to get our *hopefully, if all goes well* adoptive daughter home.

Other than that, I planned to just take it easy.

It didn’t exactly work out that way.  Turns out my husband has bronchitis and I had to take him to urgent care… which blew a couple hours between waiting for service at a walk-in clinic and waiting for prescriptions to be filled.  After about an hour adventure at Sam’s Club (a store I hate with a passion), I needed to head to Aldi for our regular grocery shopping (which my husband typically takes care of).  I stopped by Taco Bell on the way home from Aldi and picked up dinner for the family, had everyone help me put the food away as quickly as possible so we could make the 45 minute drive to take our *hopefully* future adoptive daughter home.  Followed by the 45 minute drive back home, and then a stop at Walmart to finish the shopping.

The whole time I was at Walmart I was thinking, “I need this stuff… this will prevent further trips to the store…  I’ll be glad I did this later…”, all the while I was just wishing I could go home, pour myself a glass of wine and relax.

Right now I’m sitting in my dining room with my computer.  I’m thinking I’d like to write a blog, I’m worn out after a ridiculously busy day, I’m on my second (or third?!) glass of wine, and I can’t.seem.to.relax.

My dining room is in the middle of my house.  It’s the only place where I can sit with my laptop and use my mouse, an amazingly fabulous convenience.

In front of me and to the left is my living room, where the furniture has been destroyed, and covered with hair, by animals.  I am no longer comfortable in there, even though it was supposed to be *my* room… partly because I don’t want to use the furniture, but also because I can’t use my mouse.  Two strikes against the living room.

Directly behind me is the kitchen…  obviously not a good place to go with my computer.

Directly in front of me is an *office* area.  That’s where the desktop is, and where my youngest daughter is sitting watching YouTube videos, which I can hear loud and clear from where I sit.  Behind me and to the right is the family room, where my husband is watching Groundhog Day, which I can also hear loud and clear…  clashing with the audio from the YouTube videos.

Normally I would disappear into the bedroom, but my husband has been spending his time lately coating that room in icky germs.  Going in there is NOT an option for the time being.

I’m considering the family room as my bedroom until he gets better…  so he’s currently occupying my bedroom… watching TV in there… and getting it germy as well.

And I’m surrounded by the sounds from the TV, the computer, and the normal family conversations…  “Mom, look at this… Mom can I??? Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…”  and I just want it all to go away and let me relax.

Does that make me a bad mom?  Or a bad wife?  I’m legitimately asking because I just don’t know and right now I so badly want to tell everyone to go away and it makes me feel so… selfish.

Categories: All About Ellen Cabot, Children & Parenting, Love ♥ Marriage | 2 Comments

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I emailed the Guardian ad Litem program this morning to let them know that I was no longer interested in volunteering with their program.  I was disappointed in a way, but relieved at the same time.

A Guardian ad Litem, in case you didn’t already know, is a volunteer who works with children in foster care.  They are assigned to the child, hopefully from the moment they enter the system, and they are involved with that child through everything.  They aim to be a consistent figure in the child’s life, sticking with them through multiple placements if necessary, and they act as that child’s voice in the court system, always keeping in mind what is best for the child above all else.

But to really understand how I’m feeling at the moment, I need to start a little further back…

I can actually remember wondering about adoption all the way back in elementary school.  I used to say that I would never have my own children because there were so many children already who needed homes.  I always thought that if I ever wanted to be a mom I could just adopt instead.  Helping children is something I have wanted to do even when I was still a child myself.

Three biological children later, I have decided that I still wish to adopt.  So we started the process.  During this process I have learned a lot about how the system works, and I decided that I wanted to get more involved.  What better way to get involved with helping kids than to become a Guardian ad Litem?

So I filled out and submitted the application for the program.  The application asked whether or not I have ever been involved in a DCF investigation.

I’m honest.  I had to answer “Yes”.  And I had to fill out the explanation section.

See, a few years ago there was a misunderstanding. My oldest child wrote a story depicting an abusive situation and shared it with a friend, who then showed it to someone else, and that someone else showed a teacher.

And the investigation begins…

And the investigation was quickly closed showing no indication of any abuse.

The Guardian ad Litem program has this rule that states that if an applicant has been involved in such an investigation then they must do their own investigation into the facts of that case before they can consider approving that application.  They have to have a copy of the closed report, it can only be closed with a status showing there was no indication of abuse.  But, even that isn’t enough…  they also have to have a written statement from the applicant explaining the situation, they have to speak with the investigator who handled the investigation, and they ask if you can provide them with any additional information, documentation, references, etc. that will back up your story.

So this morning I withdrew my application.  I don’t wish to go through that all over again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so.  I’m not sure I agree with the concept of “Mandatory Reporters.”  Or, at the very least, I think the system needs to be tweaked a bit.

This investigation was the result of a complete and total misunderstanding.  My child wrote a story and showed it to a friend, who showed a friend, who told a teacher.  The teacher is REQUIRED to report ANY suspicion of abuse to DCF.  If a report is submitted, DCF is required to investigate it.  Once we have been investigated, those records stay on file at DCF, with no way (that I can find anyway) to have them sealed, deleted, expunged (whatever word you want to use), and any time I want to do anything that involves working with children I have to defend myself and subject myself to an investigation all over again.

We are not perfect parents.  We make mistakes, just like everyone else does.  However, we have a safe and happy home, free from abuses of all kinds.  And it makes me so angry that four years later, with an approved adoptive home study in my hands showing that the state is willing to trust us to adopt a child from foster care, I am still being asked to defend myself against these false allegations.

If a family is investigated and absolutely no indication is found of abuse, that family should not be forced to reveal that to anyone.  If DCF wants to keep it on file to show that they have, in fact, been called to that house in the past, fine.  But other agencies should not have access to that data, and I should not be required to mention it.

I understand the need to protect the children, but we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that if someone is falsely accused of a crime that doesn’t have to do with children they are NOT required to tell anyone and continually defend themselves against those allegations.

So, why do I have to?

Categories: Adoption, All About Ellen Cabot, Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Immunization records can get you a social security card?!?

Are immunization records all you need to request a new social security card??  Maybe…  but not always.

If you haven’t read my previous post, “The Quest for Social Security Cards“, you should start there.

Having determined that birth certificates are NOT accepted as identification at the social security office, I set off to obtain one of the documents they claimed would be sufficient…

The Immunization Records.

I admit, these were super easy to get.  I just called the school, they have those records, and the lady I spoke to was more than happy to pull those records, put them in an envelope, and send them home with one of my children.

That was easy!!

So we head back to the social security office.  Trip #2.  My husband went this time (and every time after).  He showed up at the counter with the birth certificates (just in case) and the immunization records.  Plus the applications and his own ID, of course.

He was actually able to order the Social Security card for ONE of our children.  The one who is not adopted.  PARTIAL SUCCESS!!

However, for the child who he adopted, the birth certificate (which shows her current full name and lists him as the father) and the immunization records (which also use her current full name) are NOT good enough.  Because she has changed her name, we are going to need the adoption decree showing the legal name change.

I go back to our records, search our files, and find that somehow this document is missing as well.  I have all of the court documents, letters, new birth certificate, etc…  just that actual adoption decree showing the name change was missing.  It must have run off with that one social security card that was missing as well.

What to do now?

I called the county clerk in the county where the adoption was finalized.  “Please send me the adoption decree??  Please?  Pretty please?!?”

County Clerk: “No!!  All adoption records in this state are SEALED!!  You must write to the chief judge, explain your situation, and ask him nicely to release those records to you!”

Me: “But…  she’s my biological child…  she’s still in my custody…  I didn’t adopt her, I didn’t give her up for adoption, she is still, to this day, my dependent…  can’t I just have those records???”

County Clerk: “No!!!  You have to ask the judge nicely!”

**Sigh**

So, I wrote a nice, polite, professional letter to the chief judge requesting the release of those records.  I included a self-addressed stamped envelope, as requested, to make things as easy and convenient as possible for the clerks office.

I was annoyed when the records arrived and I found that they had NOT used my envelope.

But at least I had the records…  Off to the Social Security Office again!!

Lesson Learned: Hold onto ALL potentially important documents and keep everything up to date!!  I already knew this, and it really was just the two documents that somehow came up missing, but I’m extra super careful now!  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get overwhelmed trying to keep track of all this stuff…  Do you have a system for organizing all of this information?

(To be continued…)

Categories: Adoption, Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | 1 Comment

The Quest for Social Security Cards

It was just about a year ago… there I sat, in my car outside the social security office at 8:30 in the morning, with my children’s birth certificates in hand.  I was determined to be one of the first people in the door, get my kids social security cards ordered and get on with my day.

When it came time to get their drivers permits, I never imagined it would be quite this difficult.  In fact, almost a year later we still have not managed to obtain these elusive pieces of paper.

I’ll explain…

I have a file where I keep all of our birth certificates, social security cards, you know, all those vitally important documents that you never want to lose.  But when I went digging through that folder to pull out the two social security cards I needed, I found that one of them was missing.  I have no idea how that one card managed to get separated from the others, but the rest were there…  it was just the one that was missing.

Also, I noticed that the last name was wrong on the other one.  I had my oldest child when I was still a teenager myself, I hadn’t met my husband yet.  I got married when my daughter was a year old, and seven years later my husband adopted her.  At which point we changed her last name…  and I forgot to get her name changed on her social security card.  Meaning we would have to get that done now because the DMV won’t accept a social security card with a different name on it.

No problem, though!  I’m going there anyway, so I’ll get them both ordered at once and we’ll be all set, right?

The social security office opened, I was third in line, I grabbed the application form and filled them out while I waited so that I would be ready when they called me…  thinking “look at me being all organized!”

They called my number, I approached the counter, and I told the lady what I needed done.  I handed over the applications and my driver’s license for ID.  At this point she asked me what I had brought with me as proof of identification for the children.

I proudly handed her the birth certificates.

At which point I was given the most baffling piece of information ever…

The social security office does NOT accept a birth certificate as proof of identity for a child!!!

I honestly stood there stunned for a few moments.  I was speechless.  Before a child is old enough to get their driver’s license, what other sort of identification do they have??  I finally came to my senses and asked her what exactly do they accept??

Immunization records…

Last I checked the doctors offices do not require any sort of proof of identification when you bring your child in for shots.  Were I to pay cash for medical costs, or go to the health department if I had no insurance and couldn’t afford to pay for a regular doctor…  they would look at my ID and take my word for it.  Right?  OR, the health department might ask for a…  um…  birth certificate.

Another option for the social security office… they will accept… A passport.

Guess what you need to show in order to get a passport for your child??

Yep!  That’s right!!!  A BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!!!

Can someone please explain to me how it makes ANY SENSE that the social security office will accept immunization records or a passport as identification but NOT a birth certificate, an official, government issued and stamped document??

Continued –>

Categories: Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | 3 Comments

The Start of a Conversation

I’d like to have a conversation about the inefficiencies of government.

HUGE topic…  I know… but bear with me, please.

I have a feeling this will turn into a series of posts, but let me just start with the basics.

I think that the first sign of a real problem, for me at least, was when I tried to get my drivers license renewed in October 2010.  I know things had been sort of stewing for a while, but this was my first real throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air “ARE YOU INSANE?!?” moment.

I showed up at the DMV with my current drivers license, issued by the state of Florida (where I live), my social security card, and a couple pieces of mail to show proof of residency…  you know, the normal required documentation that we’re all used to.  Not good enough…  I also needed an official stamped birth certificate and my marriage certificate.

I stood there holding an ID card ISSUED BY THAT AGENCY and they’re telling me that’s not good enough.

Insane?  I think so…

Moving ahead til now.  I am currently trying to accomplish a few different goals, goals which really shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as they are turning out to be.  I’m sure I will be detailing those out for you in later posts, but let me just give you the bullet points for the time being.  🙂

(Well known fact about me: I care about kids & crime)

So…  over the next few posts I’d like to discuss a few things, and I would love some input on these issues if anyone is actually reading this and paying attention.

A general idea of what is bothering me??

  • Lack of communication between government agencies.
  • Over-regulation: Is there a benefit?
  • Diminishing rights, loss of privacy, in this country.
  • Common sense (what’s that?!?) solutions to problems.

That’s a start anyway.

More to come…

Much more…

Categories: Adoption, Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Feeling a little hypocritical

About a year ago I wrote this for Families.com.

In case you don’t have the time to go read it (though I do, of course, recommend that you do), it’s all about how adoptive parents should join support groups whether or not they currently need support themselves.  I went to a group hoping to build a support network prior to when the need for such a network arose.  I expected there to be other adoptive parents in the area willing to make that connection.  But apparently most people don’t tend to join support groups until they are actually in need of support; they don’t see a need to otherwise.  In that previous blog I made the case that joining the local group is something adoptive parents should choose to do anyway because even if you don’t need support yourself, someone in the group might need you!

It made perfect sense when I wrote it, but now I am starting to reconsider.

I attended a few of the support group meetings.  The only people who show up are the ones in extreme circumstances, the ones at the end of their rope.  They spend an hour and a half complaining about how absolutely horrible their situation is.  There have been many occasions when I have wondered if we were making a mistake because of how bad things are for these families.

One Monday of every month there are two meetings we have to decide between…  it’s Adoption Support Group vs. Crime Patrol.

Today we chose Crime Patrol.

We discussed this decision beforehand, and we decided that the support group was too negative of an environment for us, that we weren’t getting anything out of the meetings that was helpful in our current situation, and as much as I wanted to stick to my previous stance that we should be there anyway, in the end we felt our time would be better spent in the crime patrol meeting.

I would like to see the adoption group grow, I would like to see families who have had more positive experiences join up, I would like it to turn into an actual support network rather than a once a month vent session.  But I can’t spend my time listening to all of that negativity and allowing it to suck all the excitement out of this experience.

Part of me realizes that if people like us don’t stick it out, the group will never be what I had hoped it could be.  And that part of me wonders if the answer to this is to stick it out, even if we are the first to do so.   I wanted the people there when I felt I might need the group, so shouldn’t I be there when another family shows up hoping for the same?

But another part of me has to put more priority on our immediate needs, and if this group isn’t working for us we shouldn’t feel bad about leaving it.

It’s not up to us to try and *fix* it.

Where exactly do you draw the line between doing things out of a sense of obligation vs. doing what you need to do for yourself?

Categories: Adoption | Tags: | 1 Comment

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