Helping Hands

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Watering the flowers… with the boys…

Oh, the sweetness of little hands helping…

Made sweeter by little hands sharing…

Sweeter still by little hands trying and little hands immitating…
And after that 3 minutes of sweetness…. let the water start flying!

Let the water war begin…

To be fair… I may or may not have started the battle… watering is watering, right??
Oh the joy of boys… helping boys.

Child Advocates

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It was hot.
It was crowded.
But for the short time we were there the kids had a great time at this year’s Children’s Festival.

Throughout the years The Houston Children’s Festival has raised over $4.4 MILLION for Houston’s Child Advocates.  Child Advocates are court appointed advocates for children in foster care.  They are volunteers who serve as the voice for children who have been abused and neglected.  They do not report to CPS, they do not report to any lawyers or other affiliates… they speak for the best interest of the child and the child alone.  They meet with the child, encourage the child, and report to the court what they feel is the best and safest environment for the child.

Both Adrian and Sariyah had one of these amazing advocates.  I firmly believe that if Sariyah did not have her special advocate- a wonderful, young professional named Ian- that the outcome of her case would have been much different.

(He even came  to Sariyah’s 1st Birthday Party!)

Child Advocates is a part of the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) National Network. There are nearly 1,000 programs all over the country and you can find one near you by visiting here. In many areas EVERY.SINGLE.CHILD that enters into fostercare gets a Court Appointed Advocate.  Not so here in Houston… sadly not even close.  Because the area is so huge and there are so many children in care (an estimated 5,000 children from Houston are in care any given day– that is more children from this one city than 16 different states have total on any given day!) someone has to request an advocate for the child and a judge approve the request.  The request can come from the judge, the CPS worker OR… from the FOSTER PARENT!

Foster parents– did you know that YOU can request that the child in your home receive an advocate??? (that’s how Adrian received his advocate the second time around! :)) To request an advocate for a foster child visit here.

Volunteers are needed desperately in order to ensure that advocates are available to every child here in Houston.  Volunteers can be stay-at-home-moms, have full-time jobs, be retired.  The average case needs about 2-5 hours a week of casework, plus appearance in court every 3 months.  2-5 hours a week and one day in court every 3 months… to be a voice, an advocate, a HERO for a child in need.  If this sounds like something you could do visit here to get started!

If a full advocate doesn’t sound like something that would work for your family, there are other ways to volunteer including Friends of Child Advocates, Special Event Volunteers and Young Professionals for Children.

So, although it was hot and crowded, it was worth it to have some fun and help support this amazing organization that is changing lives one child at a time, one family at a time.
It sure changed this precious child’s life…

It’s Kind of the Entire Job Description

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I was talking with my agency supervisor the other day when she came to check in on Baby J and play for a bit. We were talking about a 2-fold issue the organization is having in placing kids right now. First, they are getting less referrals than usual for kids in general since the state is being pushed to place with relatives BIG time right now due to money issues. And second, they are having a difficult time placing the kids they do get referrals for into foster homes- Apparently foster parents in general are wanting very specific demographics in children and there is a large number of foster parents right now who are not interested in fostering, but fostering-to-adopt. This leads to an issue of being able to place babies especially in homes since the first goal for most babies is for reunification with family.
Fostering does not mean a guaranteed child… it’s kind of in the job description.

The supervisor was telling me that a lot of foster parents they are seeing do not want to do all the nightly wake-up calls and the crying spells and the feeding and the diaper changes and the exhaustion and put-your-life-on-hold issues that go into an infant… IF that baby is not going to stay… IF they do not get to see the benefits at the end of all the work.
I just looked at this woman and said “but… isn’t that what fostering is all about?!?”
All the down-and-dirty work… it’s kind of in the job description.

To me, fostering is exactly that… putting your all into a child so they can thrive, KNOWING you may never see the fruits of your labor.

I have had 8 children… 8 amazing babies in my home.
I have been blessed 3 times to see the fruits of those hard, long, exhausting days of infancy.
And 5 times I have planted a seed, given them the start they deserve and passed them on praying that my efforts were not in vain, praying that the months or year that I put into that child would give them the foundation they need to thrive… THAT’S kind of the whole job description of fostering.
I understand– no one wants to be the one always doing the hard part and never reaping the benefits. No one wants to put in hours of work at a job and then hand the credit over to someone else.
But a lot of times, that’s what fostering a child is like.

It’s not fun to help a baby detox and never get to actually enjoy the after-detox moments. It’s not fun helping a baby through colic and walk in circles bobbing up and down for hours with a wailing baby, never to get to enjoy post-colic moments.  It doesn’t seem right to nurse a broken baby back to health and not be able to experience all the life this put-together child will have.  It doesn’t often seem fair to rearrange your life. It doesn’t seem right to lose friends. It doesn’t seem productive to lose money from taking time off work for appointments and visits… to have that child LEAVE!

But it’s kind of in the job description.

AND it’s kind of the description of LIFE in general–  We form connections with people everyday not fully knowing if that person will be in our lives forever.  I had friends in high school, in college that I considered my “best friends” that I haven’t talked to in years now… but I never hesitated to make those bonds with them at the time.    Teachers work with students every day never knowing if that student is going to make it to graduation, and never seeing the complete fruits of their labor.  As Christians we are called to be witnesses of Christ to the world, but that doesn’t mean that we will ever personally see the product of the seeds we plant in someone’s heart.

Every day we make connections, friendships, bond with people never knowing if they will be lifelong or seasonal.  But that doesn’t mean we stop making those connections, it doesn’t mean we stay closed off to the world because we don’t want to give a part of ourselves to someone without knowing they will be there forever. 

The reality is that fostering infants (any child really) is HARD, it is WORK.  But it is beautiful and it is purposeful.  I may never see them use the skills they gained to the fullest extent, but I can have peace in knowing that they have been given that skill.  I may never see them blossom into a teenager or adult, but I can have joy in knowing that they were given a good foundation to build on. 

To “foster” something (the verb, the doing, the action definition of the word) means to promote the growth and development of; to encourage; to cultivate.
It’s the idea of planting the seed, starting the work, spurring something on.
And sometimes that is all fostering a child is… encouraging, cultivating and promoting their future… in order to hand them off– better than they were when they came to you.

And so, the way I see it is that the lost sleep, the lost friends, the lost money, even the possible lost sanity… it’s all worth it.  Don’t turn a child away because you want to see the fruits of your labor… bring them in because you know that you can plant the seed that will produce the fruit in a precious child.

It’s pretty much the best job description ever! 

YeeHaw!

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We almost froze our ears off (seriously?- it was almost 80 degrees yesterday; today 50!).  Baby J almost lost it completely with exhaustion.  Mommy was almost undone (aka had a slight hissy-fit) by the insane amount of field trip groups.

But in the end (once the field trip masses cleared out after lunch, Baby J finally fell asleep and we kept stopping indoors to warm up) it was a great Livestock Show– our 4th year in a row.  Adrian did so amazingly well this year even with the large groups of children (did I mention the insanely massive amount of field trip groups?).  I just love doing things like this with my kids.  Being out of the house with them means no laundry, no cleaning up, no chores, no referee duty… it just means being WITH my kids and watching them learn and explore.  I LOVE it!

Livestock Show and Rodeo 2012… a success (complete with 3 children begging NOT to leave and talking about everything they saw all evening long!) Thank you Gamma and Dada for a great day!

A baby sling can also double as a blanket while waiting for Mutton Bustin’!

My camera battery died towards the end, but oh how sweet it was to watch a group of baby chicks follow my running children.  They were so funny- the kids would start on one side and run to the other and the chicks ran after them! It was the cutest, funniest thing ever!  Adrian may become a farmer… if only to drive a tractor! Sariyah may become a model… with or without a tractor.
(oh that girl!)

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.
There are seven million.
~Walt Streightiff

Adrian and Sariyah…

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Brother and sister? Friends? Coexistent inhabitants of the same household?
All I know is that from their earliest memories they had each other.

 Feb. 26, 2008- day after Sariyah came to us.
 Sariyah- 2 months, Adrian- 4 months

April 2008 

Her little heart broke when he left too.

November 2008- the last picture taken of Adrian before he was taken from our arms.
 Sariyah… kissing her Adrian

And when he returned…

Sept. 10, 2009- the day after Adrian returned to us.

 … It was as if 10 months had never passed.

September 2010

August 2011

And though they don’t play WITH each other as much as they used to, I was reminded today for a brief moment how long they have been in each other’s lives and that while their interests and personalities have changed greatly, they have a bond that has developed over the past 4 years.

  Today

I don’t know what that bond is called… All I know is that they are Adrian and Sariyah, twins that are 2 months apart, who can understand each other’s language better than anyone else, fight like cats and dogs, partners in many, many crimes here at home, each other’s first friends, giggle partners…

… with a bond that wasn’t made by blood; one that is stronger and deeper than any label.