It’s almost New Year’s Eve

Historically there have been dozens of calendars used by civilizations and religions around the world. They all center on their own significant events, whether spiritual, astrological, or business driven. Today may be Sunday, August 18th for all intensive purposes but in my world I am on the cusp of a new year. This week my students come back to school and this past week’s preparations in my classroom will lead to the faster tempo of “back to school.”

I’ve always been grateful that my life follows a yearly rhythm. Each fall I get to start the new year with a blank slate. New students, new parents, new instructional ideas, no mistakes. It’s only with my fellow educators that I can use the phrase “last year” and they understand that I could very well be talking about something that happened three months ago. Wednesday night is my New Year’s Eve. It is generally celebrated by trying to get to bed early and struggling to quiet my mind and reassure myself that, yes, everything is as ready as it can be for Day 1. As with any New Year, these final days leading up to it lend themselves to a lot of reflection about the year I am putting behind me, more specifically the summer I am putting behind me.

As I reconnect with colleagues the standard questions is always, “How was your summer?” I’m finding it difficult that perhaps the most significant part of my summer, completing our foster care licensing classes, is something that I’m still not sharing with a lot of people. Mr. Something and I are telling people if they happen to ask us about children, but I’m not quite ready for the work announcement until we have a better idea of our timeline. So, I smile, I tell them it was quiet and relaxing, which it was. I did a lot of reading, please don’t ask me to recommend books because most of my reading was countless pages published by DCFS about types of abuse, trauma, the importance of family, community, and culture.

Another Blank Slate:

Photo Jul 10, 8 07 37 PM

The “before” picture for now.

Over the last few months Mr. Something and I also continued to prepare our second bedroom for the arrival of tiny humans. After redoing a second hand dresser last spring the room sat untouched until school was out. As I shuffled furniture and prepared the walls for painting, I realized that this second bedroom of ours was very much a blank slate. We have lived in our house for 5 1/2 years but I struggle to even recall even 2 or 3 significant memories that take place in that space. It served as an office for a while, but upon receiving a laptop from my district, I rarely found myself sitting at my personal desktop computer. At some point we flipped the room with our loft area and it turned into a TV room.  Again, it was rarely used. Mr. Something and I don’t often do things in separate parts of the house. When we are home together we like to be doing things together.

So, my blank builder-white walls became the soft grey of gentle rain. (Who is lucky enough to get the job of naming paint colors? Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a bedroom covered in something called gentle rain?) The walls were practically flawless given the lack of use the room has received over the years, but suddenly it was becoming a real room. Photo Jul 14, 12 00 57 PMI took down the tension rod that held up the white curtains that were left over “closet doors” from my junior year dorm room and installed actual hardware and a pair of Ikea curtains that I’ve had my eye on for months. With some colorful paper lanterns from WorldMarket, it’s taking shape, and the promise of some incredibly significant memories to come is making our little house feel more and more like a home. 

So, how was my summer? Special. Exciting. And exactly what I needed to prepare for the “New Year” to come.

(In the meantime we are in week three of waiting to hear back from our agency supervisor so we can find out who our new licensing rep will be. I’ll call again tomorrow…)

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27 Hours Smarter

Oh how my blogging has gotten away from me during the second half of our classes. I suppose traveling over 1000 miles over the course of two weekends between Sessions 6 and 9 kept us pretty busy. However, as of Tuesday we officially completed our 27 hours of PRIDE training. Now, according to our instructors our licensing rep should be contacting us the moment we are done with the training to get our paperwork and begin the home study. As of two weeks ago we found out that our licensing rep had been transferred to the city office. She gave me the number of her supervisor and told me to call her to find out who our new rep will be. I am still waiting for her to return my call. We asked around in our class to find out about other agencies but our instructors advised us to wait until we are licensed before changing agencies that way there’s no risk of loosing paperwork and having to redo any part of the licensing process.

So the remainder of our classes included the following:

Session 5- Strengthening Family Relationships

We talked a lot about cultural identity and the importance of maintaining birth family and community connections, especially when taking in older children.

Session 6- Meeting Developmental Needs: Discipline

During this session we explored the differences between discipline and punishment. We received the DCFS guidelines about disciplining children in foster care which sparked an interesting debate about spanking children. The other hot topic was the issue of not using food as a punishment. Meaning, if dessert is a regular part of dinner there can’t be a “if you don’t eat your dinner you won’t get dessert” ultimatum. We also went over the steps to take to manage crisis situations and de-escalate problem behaviors.

Session 7- Continuing Family Relationships

This one was all about working as a part of a team and the importance of remembering that a child’s “clock” moves very differently than an adults. Even just a few months in foster care can feel like an eternity to a child. I felt a little like they were preaching to the choir on this one because the foster parents are completely helpless as to the timeline of events. I’ve read time and time again about the frustrations of foster parents in how the system is failing their foster children in terms of the timeline. I suppose it was a “be prepared to help your child through this” matter.

Session 8- Planning for Change

Hey! Your life is going to change! Oh really?

Session 9- Making an Informed Decision

Session nine could have been two sessions, I finally felt like we were getting actual information about how to do things, what to expect, and what to remember. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. There was a panel made up of various professionals that shared their perspective on the fostering experience. Keep records for everything. Save receipts when spending state allocated money. Keep a medicine log but don’t administer over-the-counter drugs without written consent from a doctor. Keep a behavior log, for both good and bad behaviors. Make sure children come with their medical card and medical “passport” when they arrive in your home. A comprehensive medical examine is required within 21 days of being taken into foster care. Don’t sign any medical forms or you might be billed, you are not a guardian! 6 hours of adoption certification classes are required before adoption. Say, “yes” to all subsidies offered upon adopting a child to ensure continued support from the state. Send all forms certified mail so there is proof of delivery… it goes on and on. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed because I felt like it was so much useful information given to us in response to our questions, but what if we didn’t ask all the questions? Luckily we left with the phone number of our instructor and the invitation to call with any questions that arise along the way.

The last four and a half weeks have been crazy busy with commuting to the city for classes, the reading, and homework. I’m happy to have crossed this one off the list. There are at least 16 more hours of classes in our future but for now the Tiny Human Project is quiet again.