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Paperwork mailed

Today Simon and I went to the post office and mailed a large envelope to the licensing worker at our foster care agency.  It contained the official foster care licensing application that goes to the state of Michigan, the paperwork we got from our fingerprinting appointment, a financial worksheet (our income and expenses), medical forms for all four of us, a certificate of good health and vaccination for our cat, a reference from Don’s employer, a release form for our prior foster care agency to be able to share information with our new agency, and my certificate of completion of first aid training.

This stack of paperwork gets our file opened in Lansing, but we still have a few licensing requirements to meet.  The biggest is the training requirement.  I’m almost done with mine, but Don hasn’t even started.  He’s been working hard for the past several months on a project that’s due three days from now, so I’m not bugging him about doing the training until after that’s done.  We also have to have the old well on our property filled in and registered as abandoned with the state, along with a few minor things done to our current well (new well cap, installation of a pressure gauge and pressure relief valve).  We have a quote for the work but haven’t scheduled it yet; Don wants to talk with them (I got the quote) and he can’t deal with it until next week.  Finally, out of our control, the agency has to finish our homestudy, and I don’t know how long that will take.

We are asking to be licensed for up to two children, but we don’t want two unrelated children, so if we have a single child placed with us, we’ll stick with just one until he/she leaves.  If we have two siblings placed with us, they’ll have to be the same sex since they’ll be sharing a room; I don’t plan to have Peter or Simon share their rooms.  I originally was thinking of 5 as a minimum age was so that any kids placed with us would be school-aged and I wouldn’t have to live with them 24/7 (a surefire recipe for burn-out–which I experienced with our previous foster child).  After learning that foster kids are automatically eligible for Head Start (8:30-3:30 Mon-Thurs with transportation provided), we expanded our age range to 3-9 (we don’t want any kids older than Peter, who is 10).

I’m guessing that our license won’t be issued until some time in early fall.  I’m on a Facebook group for foster/adoptive parents in Michigan; people downstate report that they are getting calls for placement the same day as their license is approved, but up here, I don’t know how long it’ll be after we’re licensed until we have a placement.

(Background info: Peter joined a 4th grade class at our local elementary school in March after being homeschooled for almost two years.)

Peter seemed to adjust well to school.  It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be.  Getting him out the door on time was a challenge, as expected.  Fortunately the bus stops on the road we live on at both sides of our property, so if it was at the first stop as he was leaving the house (where he usually gets on the bus), he could run to the second stop and make it.  He only actually missed the bus once.  Packing his lunch isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it wasn’t too bad.  Getting him to do his homework was not as difficult as expected; in fact, near the end of the year, he actually did it himself before being told a few times.

Every Monday, he brought home a sheaf of papers–his work from the previous week, along with a newsletter from the teacher.  I always went through it all and was generally pleased with the quality of his work.  He started school a few days before the beginning of the final quarter of the year.  He brought home his report card on the last day of school on June 5th and his grades were excellent, so he adjusted well academically.

Behaviorally, he seems to have done better at school than he was doing at home, but still not quite where we’d like him to be.  I did get a couple phone calls from his teacher and he had a behavior referral to the office.  Overall, though, I think he wants to behave.  I think that with more maturity and more experience in the school setting, his behavior will improve.

All in all, having him go to school has been a positive experience.  I think the expectations (both behavioral and academic) placed on him in school and the opportunity to socialize with other kids during recess are good for him.  It has certainly reduced my stress level, though even without homeschooling Peter, I still always have more work to do than I can possibly get done.

Back in March, when he started school, I was so fried that I couldn’t consider doing any more lessons with him.  As summer vacation approached, however, I decided that we should continue our tradition of summer lessons.  I chose them to fulfill one of two purposes: either because it was something he wouldn’t get in school or because it was something he needed some extra practice in.  Thus, for the things he won’t get in school, we are working on finishing the US/Canadian history sequence that we started at the beginning of grade 3 (yes, he will get US history in school, but we’re doing the two countries’ histories woven together and he really enjoys it) and he’s doing French workbooks, using French educational apps, and watching tv in French to keep up his knowledge of the language.  (Informally, he’s also reading in French–he just finished the second Harry Potter book in French.)  For the things he needs a little more work on, we’re continuing our spelling lessons and cursive handwriting practice from where we stopped earlier this year, and he’s playing some games/apps to practice math, especially multiplication and division facts.  We didn’t do lessons last week because we were travelling, so we started this Monday.  Three days in, we seem to have made the transition back to a semi-homeschooling lifestyle without much difficulty.  Fingers crossed that it continues to go smoothly.

Terrariums

Today we made terrariums.  It’s a project I’ve been planning for months (I bought the used coffee pots at Goodwill back in March), but I couldn’t find appropriate little plants in town (we live in a fairly remote area).  I was able to stop and pick some up in the “big city” on our way home from vacation last weekend, so we finally were able to complete this project.  If you’d like to make your own, you can find instructions here.

Terrarium 1 Terrarium 2

Orientation: check

We had our foster care orientation meeting this afternoon.  The social worker was here for two and a quarter hours.  We mostly sat outside because the weather was nice.  She went over a lot of the basics of foster care–what it is, how it works, the steps to become licensed.  She ran through it pretty quickly, knowing that we already had a good understanding of most of it from our previous experience.  She answered our questions about how things work here.  We signed a check-list of topics that were covered in the orientation, which allowed her to give us an application for licensure. In addition to the application form (a straightforward form that will go to Lansing), she provided a folder with a large pile of documents–laws, policies, procedures, and more paperwork for us to do.  We have homework: we have to set up an appointment for fingerprinting, get medical forms completed for everyone in our household, get an employer reference for Don, get three personal references, fill out a financial information form, and I need to do first aid training (Don did it in the fall as a Boy Scout leader).  They will count our PRIDE training from Ontario (yay!), but we still have to complete 12 hours of training before we can be licensed.  The orientation and licensing process can be counted for 6 hours, the first aid training counts as an hour, and we can do some independent work (reading, online courses, or watching videos) for the rest.  We were relieved that we won’t have to drive to the agency’s office (2 hours away) to do in-person training.

After our lengthy discussion outside, the social worker did a walk-through of our house.  She got a feel for the overall layout and the bedrooms, discussed how we could handle the pellet stove as a possible safety concern, and checked to see that we had the appropriate number/placement of smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector (that was easy; the people we bought our house from must have been a little neurotic about smoke detectors because we have eight of them in our house).

All in all, it was a good experience.  I feel comfortable with her and I think I will like working with a small agency, instead of a large, impersonal organization like our previous agency.

Our May special dinner was a celebration of Victoria Day this past Monday.  Victoria Day is sort of the Canadian equivalent of Memorial Day, in that it is the “unofficial beginning of summer” holiday.  It recognizes Queen Victoria, who was queen when Canada became a country in 1867.

We barbequed brats (which we called “super hot dogs” for Simon, because he loves hot dogs and was suspicious of the brats) and had corn on the cob, baked beans (Heinz Maple Style, brought back from our recent trip to Windsor), Sun Chips, and watermelon.  Since Victoria Day celebrates both Queen Victoria’s birthday and the birthday of the reigning monarch, I made birthday cupcakes for dessert.

It was the lowest-key special dinner so far this year.  I admit, I slacked off.  We didn’t do any crafts or decorations.  We did talk about Victoria Day, more for Peter’s benefit than Simon’s.  I plan to do better next year.  Even though we live in the US now, we want our kids to grow up with a sense of their Canadian identity.

I decided not to go with the second foster care agency I contacted.  The woman there who I really liked from my initial agency research has been promoted to another position and would no longer be the person we’d be working with.  Also, they are estimating 6-9 months to complete a home study, which seems quite long.

I contacted a third agency, one that hadn’t been on my list originally, but had been mentioned positively by two people on the Michigan foster/adoptive parents Facebook group when I asked for feedback about the agencies I was considering.  The woman I spoke with was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, took her time to talk with me (we were on the phone for half an hour and she never gave the impression that she wanted to get off the phone and get back to working on something else), and asked good questions.  We scheduled a meeting for next Thursday.  She said she’ll call me to confirm on Tuesday (I needed to check Don’s schedule to be sure it would work for him), and told me not to worry if that time doesn’t work, because her schedule is flexible.  She asked me to send her a copy of our prior home study to look over before we meet, so she can get to know us (I joked, or at least who we were five years ago) and so that she won’t have to ask us detailed questions about things that were already covered and haven’t really changed, like family history.  All in all, I feel more comfortable with her than I did with the workers from the other two agencies, and I’m looking forward to meeting her next week.

No meeting today

I got an e-mail on Friday from the worker who was supposed to meet with us this morning.  He had to cancel because he had received a court summons.  He offered to reschedule, but didn’t have a free day until the week of June 8th.  We are going to be out of town that week, so it would be a month until we could meet.

This seemed like a red flag to me.  I was already not impressed that he had not responded to a couple simple questions I had e-mailed him after he sent me the questionnaires, ten days previously.  I don’t have a lot of confidence that someone who doesn’t respond to e-mail and can’t meet with me until six weeks after I made the initial phone call (if it even happened then) would be there for me when I really needed them.  I posted about it on a Facebook group for foster and adoptive parents in Michigan and asked if it was reasonable or not.  While several people did mention that delays and rescheduling happen, many people agreed that it seemed like a red flag and encouraged me to switch agencies.

I have contacted another agency, which was actually the agency I liked best after my initial research (I didn’t choose them before because their office is two hours away and the agency I first contacted is local to me, which I thought would be more convenient).  We’ll see how things go.

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