Our Experience Fostering as Grandparents
One of the most recent astounding changes in the child welfare system has been the number of children in state custody who are living with other relatives, or someone rather than their parent whom they share a bond. Relatives or kin may be called on unexpectedly to care for a child even without being prepared. Here is our story.
What is Relative/Kinship Care?
According to DCS; Department of Child Services, Relative/Kinship Care is the full-time care, nurturing, and keeping safe of children by relatives or any adult that has a bond with a child. It lets a child grow into an adult in a loving and affectionate family surrounding.
A little over a year ago, my boyfriend got a call from his son asking him to please take his three kids because DCS was going to take them from him. We immediately went to pick them up. One out of the three knew us quite well and had stayed the night with us, but the other two hadn't spent much time with us—other than the few birthday parties and get togethers. It was a really tough time for us. We scrambled to get beds setup, clothing washed, and dressers rearranged. Initially, we thought this was just going to be for a couple weeks.
Exactly one week later, we got a call from his daughter, stating that we needed to take her two children—DCS was taking them from her, too. They were all five taken from the other grandmother's home, where the two "adult" children were living at the time. The mother of the two was also living there. Again, we immediately went to get them, and scrambled around to get more beds, dressers, and clothes situated. We spoke to a couple different caseworker's regarding both cases. We knew nothing about being foster parents.
We had to get the rules, the housing laws, the sharing rooms with genders, etc. One week after we got the first three, one of them had to go live with her bio mom because she was fine to take her. We were down to four kids. Three girls and a boy. Three weeks later, bio mom was sneaking and giving her child to the other grandmother behind DCS's back. We were approached as to where this child would be placed now that the bio mom, apparently did not want her own child. We stated that she would come back here where she belongs.
Once again, we were back to five children. We met with a foster specialist that came to do a home study. She asked us personal questions together and apart. We had to do background checks, take a drug test, and do fingerprints before we could become licensed foster/kinship parents. They told us it would take around five months to finish and get our license. We did not have to do this, but with five children, we felt that we needed to do so. We had to take cpr, blood-born pathogens, and foster parenting classes on top of all the other things listed above. We were determined to get this done as quickly as possible. In order to have someone "babysit" they had to have a background check on file. We had a couple friends and relatives do this for us, so that we could take these classes. We took a couple together, a couple separate and a couple online that were required. It only took us 3 months to get our license from the start.
The Five with Butterfly Craft
Parenting is hard work for anyone, let alone two adults pushing 50 years old. We raised our children, so it was our time to live our Golden years in an empty nest, getting to spoil our 9 grandchildren. Yes, I said 9!! However, that wasn't the case a little over a year ago. We became parents to 5 little children all below age 6. It was a little overwhelming at first, but then once we established a routine for school, for the day, the rules of the house, what they could and couldn't do, the food they could eat, what they couldn't, it worked out really well. I think we all learned a lot this past year, plus we now share a bond with all of them. I most certainly learned you need to keep more than one calendar at all times. Digital and paper! Ha!
Once the routine was setup, there would be visits with the parents and other grandparents through the week, and weekends. We had to be the actual parents, making sure they ate right, behaved, had manners, were disciplined, brushed their teeth, bathed them, were hugged, were loved, and got attention, etc. We didn't get to spoil them and send them home, like normal grandparents. Even the four other grand kids didn't get to come as often, or get spoiled as much as we would have liked to do. It wasn't fair to my daughters', nor my other grandchildren. It caused some bumpy times especially with my youngest daughter that has three kiddo's. Luckily, we always worked it out.
When the kids got to go to their visits with their parents, they got to spoil them, have fast food, candy, get toys, go fun places with them, supervised of course. Our roles got reversed, the parents became the grandparents, and we had to be the parents. It is not fair to the kids, nor the grandparents. Although, we knew we had to step up to make sure they were safe and happy.
Children go through a lot of trauma when they are moved from one place to another, being removed from their parents. We learned in foster parent classes that children have different ages. More than just their physical age. They also have an emotional age and a mental age. Two of our grandchildren were already in therapy when they arrived, so we just kept those appointments. These two girls had more than just the removal trauma, so they were already in therapy, and still are today.
The other three needed to get into therapy because there were anger, sadness, rage, guilt and a lot more mental issues. It took eight months for DCS to find a place that would take a three year old. Finally, the other three were also in therapy. Play therapy for the three year old, which she only had to go three times, then they decided she was adjusting well, and would be fine. Her older siblings are still in therapy today.
Once all kids were in therapy, you could definitely see a big change in all of their behavior, and personality. There was a lot of rage and anger, hitting, arguing and normal sibling rivalry in our home for the past year.
How do you handle sibling fighting in your home?
There was more than just routine, schedules, and discipline, we also did a lot of fun things. During the school year, we took walks, played outside when it was nice. When the weather wasn't so good, we made crafts, watched a movie, with Popcorn, of course. We played games, did puzzles, read books, and just played with toys.
Once school was out, there were more visits with parents and grandparents. Which was fun for the kiddo's also. After Memorial day, both years (last year and this year), we went to the community pool and park. All five kids learned how to swim better by just going to the pool so much.
You have read above, the children were removed from their other grandmother's home. As a result, the kids could not go to her house but she did get visits at church every third Sunday. She was devastated by this, which I can see why, it would be awful not to get to see your grandchildren for so long. She had nothing to do with why they were removed, but it was her home, so DCS had to take precautions, which again, I understand.
There are a lot of court dates, for two different cases with DCS. The whole process can take up to fifteen to eighteen months to be finished, depending how fast the parents do what they are supposed to do. They had to take classes, go to therapy, get a job, have a home for their children, basically jump through a lot of hoops.
As the time grew on, one of the parents was doing really well, so she got more time with her kids. First supervised visits, then semi-supervised, unsupervised for several hours, then overnights, and lastly, a ninety day home trial. Which she is in at this time. We finally get to fill them with sugar, buy them toys and send them home. Ha!
The grandmother, where they were removed from, also got to start having more visits about 6 months into the case. She also started getting more time with the oldest grandchild, with whom she has custody. They started out with the same above, and now she has her oldest granddaughter living with her. Which means, we are down to two granddaughters now.
Cousins and Siblings
We are down to two granddaughters that are currently living with us. We have one more court date to determine if we will adopt or their Mom will get an extension. She is doing very well, she has a job, got her license, has a car and is now working on housing. Although, that sounds very good, she has had some slips, and is almost out of time, so we might end up adopting. We hope that she gets them back, and proves to be the best Mom ever. However, we go by what the judge decides, and whichever he decides, we will be happy.