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Michelle Conde

Well, that was quick. . .

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Last week we decided to look into foster care, and I made a phone call to find out more.

Yesterday, we got a call asking if we would take a little girl as an emergency placement.  I was sort of thinking, “Well, yes, we could do that, but—you really just give children to people you spoke with once on the phone?”  Though, apparently her supervisor had met dh through work.  A few hours and a lot of paperwork later, and they dropped her off.  Our heads are still spinning.

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That is quick indeed but I seem to remember that your dh is a fairly well known advocate for children. May many blessings come your way as you take care of another little one in need of a home.

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Wow! That is crazy.  Hard to believe it is legal. I can't believe that they didn't run a back ground check and have a home inspection done first. And.....some basic training on how to deal with kids, displacement and trama.  Good luck and lots of positive thoughts! I hope that you family thives and you have great experiences. 

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Apparently they do. But I'm always reading about how foster care is badly stretched, and they need all the beds they can get.

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Wow!

The system is stretched so thin... I can’t say I’m okay with bypassing procedures, but I get it.  Best of luck to all of you!

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Wow.  Here it is 6 months or more of paperwork, training, more paperwork, and waiting.

Plan on the first 2 weeks being a whirlwind.  Have low expectations of everyone, Including yourself....and your other kids.

Please feel free to post here about questions, concerns, etc as there are a lot of foster/former foster parents here.

 

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Is it your DH who is in the legal system, working with family court? If so, that may explain why they waived regulations, if they already know he's dealt with this area for so long, is known by the social workers, etc. 

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Yes, dh is a public prosecutor who specializes in sex crimes with minor victims, so he has experience with traumatized children.  And I am a former preschool teacher.  But even so, I’m still shocked.

It’s gone way more smoothly than I expected so far.  I’m guessing maybe as she gets a little more comfortable with us we will have more to work through.

 

Apparently they had another family inquire about becoming foster parents last week, and they placed a sibling group of three with them the day before yesterday.

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Wow, I am exhausted.  About halfway through the day on Friday, something shifted, and things have been really rough since.  Hitting, throwing, screaming, running away, forcibly throwing herself to the ground hard enough so you are trying to catch her to keep her from hurting herself.  And hitting herself in the head and face, hard enough to leave a mark, whenever she gets in trouble.

 We are making baby steps in the right direction, though.  Today was better than yesterday, which was not as bad as Friday.

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1 hour ago, Michelle Conde said:

Wow, I am exhausted.  About halfway through the day on Friday, something shifted, and things have been really rough since.  Hitting, throwing, screaming, running away, forcibly throwing herself to the ground hard enough so you are trying to catch her to keep her from hurting herself.  And hitting herself in the head and face, hard enough to leave a mark, whenever she gets in trouble.

 We are making baby steps in the right direction, though.  Today was better than yesterday, which was not as bad as Friday.

Yes.  That is very typical.  Can you link up with other local foster parents for support?  Stephanie Grant PhD has a great facebook page for trauma in kids.

It is hard to think about but she has lost everything she has ever known.....as horrible as it might have been, it was what she knew.  The sights, smells, food, rules, etc...everything is gone.

Check out the 2 books by Amanda Barton which are great for kids going through this with huge emotions.  West Olive Press  They help put into words and pictures what kids can't express...at least not right away.

The new book, coming out next week by Rachael Denhollander, How much is a Little Girl Worth, is a wonderful book as well.  I have a preview copy and love it.

 

Edited by Ottakee
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I hope it goes well for you and the child but what the hell are they thinking.  I can see that you and your husband could have police checks waived but not house inspections, training and some sort of meeting and assessment of your other children.  Plus a cool down after training 

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17 minutes ago, Ottakee said:

Yes.  That is very typical.  Can you link up with other local foster parents for support?  Stephanie Grant PhD has a great facebook page for trauma in kids.

It is hard to think about but she has lost everything she has ever known.....as horrible as it might have been, it was what she knew.  The sights, smells, food, rules, etc...everything is gone.

Check out the 2 books by Amanda Barton which are great for kids going through this with huge emotions.  West Olive Press  They help put into words and pictures what kids can't express...at least not right away.

The new book, coming out next week by Rachael Denhollander, How much is a Little Girl Worth, is a wonderful book as well.  I have a preview copy and love it.
 

 

Thank you, I will look up those books.  Our first Foster Parent Foundations training meeting is on Wednesday, so I’m hoping to learn how to connect with other foster parents then.

30 minutes ago, kiwik said:

I hope it goes well for you and the child but what the hell are they thinking.  I can see that you and your husband could have police checks waived but not house inspections, training and some sort of meeting and assessment of your other children.  Plus a cool down after training 

 

I understand they’re desperate, but surely they would retain more people interested in foster parenting with more preparation and support, right?  I called her caseworker with a question and left a message on Thursday, and still haven’t heard back.  

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Is there another agency offering training that you could attend somehow? That makes no sense! I am so sorry.  

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I can imagine you don't really have time at the moment to read much. I have found Dan Hughes very helpful in getting insight into how the child is feeling- how trauma has impacted their brain, and how it would be helpful for me to respond.

I found a video  by Dan Hughes https://ddpnetwork.org/blog/practice/how-early-years-trauma-affects-the-brain-dan-hughes-iriss/      I haven't watched this video yet, though I have attended a day long training seminar when Dan Hughes was in Australia

 

Is the placement a very temporary thing of just a few days or  meant to be for a few weeks or months??

I have only experience with long term placements.

 I would imagine a short  few days or couple of weeks  placement would be a completely different situation 

 

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Can you post on your local community FB page to find other foster parents (not giving out any details on child) or better yet, ask your worker/agency to help connect you with other foster parents and support groups 

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Wow. On the one hand, I support the idea of cutting through the red tape because situations are dire and obviously you and your dh are known to the system in other contexts, which totally makes it make sense. But on the other hand, with a story like this, you can easily see how easily people abuse the whole system and how kids don't get the support they actually need. I'm especially horrified that they placed them and then have seemed to abandon you without much support.

Regardless, hugs to you. I hope you're able to get a network of support going and that it gets easier. I'm sure you have the capacity to love and the strategies for working with kids in general, but I know special situations can take special tools - things that love and caring won't automatically overcome. I hope you're able to find those tools and that it goes smoothly going forward.

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Call and ask if you can get the training materials mailed to you in paper form, immediately.  The whole set, not one at a time.  Ones you most need having to do with handling difficult behavior may be several modules in.

And ask for access to whatever online trainings they can connect you to.  

If your state hasn’t got any of that, others do.  Oregon where I am now, for example, had excellent paper training modules available for situations where someone couldn’t attend a regular training.  And we also have a great Post Adoption Resource Center with lots of relevant materials— though hard to get access to any of it as a foster home.  

I belong to a group 

You may need to learn to safely (for both you and her) hold her until she calms down and other techniques which may now have YouTube videos demonstrating them.  

Contact the “Annie E Casey” foundation and ask for help.  

 

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I haven’t had much time to respond, but I appreciate it, everyone!

Pen, thank you so much, I got them to send me the paper materials.

 The other night I went to the grocery store alone while dh was here with the kids.  As I was coming home I realized my hands were shaking—all jittery, like an adrenaline rush.  

I have fallen asleep about one paragraph into reading materials the last two nights, but I appreciate the suggestions and am trying to get to them.

I am working with the theory that #1 priority is helping her feel safe (even if that means sitting with her for 1.5 hours or more at bedtime) and #2 is stopping what we are doing to teach gentleness every single time there is an incident—and we are making progress!  She is smiling.  She is even laughing.  She is now only trying to harm herself about one out of every three times she is stopped from doing something she shouldn’t, versus pretty much every time.  She now will listen about half the time if I give her a direction, instead of screaming every time.  Her attempts to hurt others are lessening significantly.  She is starting to respond to us with words other than “no!” when we talk to her.  She is coming to us wanting comfort when she is sad or winding down from a rage.  And today, she started calling me “Mama”, far sooner than I thought would happen.

 

(Deep Breath). We can do this!  

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25 minutes ago, Michelle Conde said:

 And today, she started calling me “Mama”, far sooner than I thought would happen.

 

(Deep Breath). We can do this!  

That is actually a sign of attachment disorder. Does she have a therapist? 

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2 minutes ago, hippiemamato3 said:

That is actually a sign of attachment disorder. Does she have a therapist? 

 

She has been referred for therapy, but hasn’t started yet.

 

Her mother up to this point in life has basically been her nine-year-old sister.

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Just now, Michelle Conde said:

 

 

She has been referred for therapy, but hasn’t started yet.

 

Her mother up to this point in life has basically been her nine-year-old sister.

Yeah I'd actually encourage her to call you by your name. If she already has attachment issues *and she definitely does* you don't want to be "one more mom" when she leaves your house to go home or to an adoptive family. It's really in her best interests.

 

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22 minutes ago, hippiemamato3 said:

Yeah I'd actually encourage her to call you by your name. If she already has attachment issues *and she definitely does* you don't want to be "one more mom" when she leaves your house to go home or to an adoptive family. It's really in her best interests.

 

 

My husband and I call me by my name when speaking to her, but she hears my kids calling me Mom or Mama all the time.

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How old is she?  Is she a toddler that she is so influenced by what your kids call you?  Does she have contact with her nine year old sister?

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5 minutes ago, Terabith said:

How old is she?  Is she a toddler that she is so influenced by what your kids call you?  Does she have contact with her nine year old sister?

 

She is about to turn three, but is developmentally delayed.  She has visitation with her sisters once a week.

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Do you have private social agencies in your area?  They often are able provide extra support and may have their own training.   

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5 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

I haven’t had much time to respond, but I appreciate it, everyone!

Pen, thank you so much, I got them to send me the paper materials.

 The other night I went to the grocery store alone while dh was here with the kids.  As I was coming home I realized my hands were shaking—all jittery, like an adrenaline rush.  

I have fallen asleep about one paragraph into reading materials the last two nights, but I appreciate the suggestions and am trying to get to them.

I am working with the theory that #1 priority is helping her feel safe (even if that means sitting with her for 1.5 hours or more at bedtime) and #2 is stopping what we are doing to teach gentleness every single time there is an incident—and we are making progress!  She is smiling.  She is even laughing.  She is now only trying to harm herself about one out of every three times she is stopped from doing something she shouldn’t, versus pretty much every time.  She now will listen about half the time if I give her a direction, instead of screaming every time.  Her attempts to hurt others are lessening significantly.  She is starting to respond to us with words other than “no!” when we talk to her.  She is coming to us wanting comfort when she is sad or winding down from a rage.  And today, she started calling me “Mama”, far sooner than I thought would happen.

 

(Deep Breath). We can do this!  

 

Ask your social worker to get her into emotional therapy right away.  Foster kids rarely call foster parents Mama like that. It’s probably a bad sign, not a good sign.  

And even if she’s not trying to self harm or harm others as often, that’s still red flag warning that professional assistance is needed.  

You also need what’s happening documented for legal reasons IMO, though I guess your dh knows that part better than I. 

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4 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

My husband and I call me by my name when speaking to her, but she hears my kids calling me Mom or Mama all the time.

 

Then it may be more normal than I thought.  

But the self harming still probably needs more professional attention.  

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25 minutes ago, Pen said:

 

Ask your social worker to get her into emotional therapy right away.  Foster kids rarely call foster parents Mama like that. It’s probably a bad sign, not a good sign.  

And even if she’s not trying to self harm or harm others as often, that’s still red flag warning that professional assistance is needed.  

You also need what’s happening documented for legal reasons IMO, though I guess your dh knows that part better than I. 

As a foster mom to over 100 kids over 25 years time I have to disagree a bit.

We are talking about a child just about to turn 3.  Often the younger ones call the foster mom, mom quite quickly, esp. if there are other kids in the home that they hear calling her mom.  With an older child, it can be more of a sign of attachment issues.  I think it is OK, esp. if the child is comfortable with it.

The self harm too isn't too out of the ordinary for a child just turning 3.  Yes, a good mental health therapist is certainly in order.

I think, like OP said above, the #1 thing is that she feels SAFE.  It sounds like there have been huge gains in behavior in just a very short time.    Sounds like you are on the right track.  The first 2 weeks are the worst as everyone is in a tailspin.

 

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11 minutes ago, Ottakee said:

As a foster mom to over 100 kids over 25 years time I have to disagree a bit.

We are talking about a child just about to turn 3.  Often the younger ones call the foster mom, mom quite quickly, esp. if there are other kids in the home that they hear calling her mom.  With an older child, it can be more of a sign of attachment issues.  I think it is OK, esp. if the child is comfortable with it.

The self harm too isn't too out of the ordinary for a child just turning 3.  Yes, a good mental health therapist is certainly in order.

I think, like OP said above, the #1 thing is that she feels SAFE.  It sounds like there have been huge gains in behavior in just a very short time.    Sounds like you are on the right track.  The first 2 weeks are the worst as everyone is in a tailspin.

 

 

I changed my Thinking in a lower post when I realized how young she was.  I still think that asking for a therapist should be done now rather than on a wait see basis.  A good therapist can help stop serious problems from happening, which is better than trying to cope afterwards

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I'm with Ottakee in that I wouldn't put a lot of weight on "mama." Children that young probably do not understand the full import of calling someone "mama," and are simply patterning after the other children. I mean, I think that could easily apply to children much older. It doesn't mean there aren't attachment issues--many/most foster kids will understandably have them to some degree; I just don't think the name itself is an indication.

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Can you do anything to child proof/toddler proof the house more, so there is less trouble for her to get into? She may be coming from a very bare environment, without much stimulation, plus no one to care if she DID get into stuff, so to now have someone many times a day stopping her would be a huge transition and seem really negative. Not saying you are being negative, just that it would be a lot of "no" all of a sudden. If you could somehow just change the environment, even if just temporarily by boxing up a bunch of stuff, putting stuff up high, etc for a few weeks, and put up baby gates to keep her out of areas, that might mean there is a lot less "no" and less stress for you both. 

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11 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Can you do anything to child proof/toddler proof the house more, so there is less trouble for her to get into? She may be coming from a very bare environment, without much stimulation, plus no one to care if she DID get into stuff, so to now have someone many times a day stopping her would be a huge transition and seem really negative. Not saying you are being negative, just that it would be a lot of "no" all of a sudden. If you could somehow just change the environment, even if just temporarily by boxing up a bunch of stuff, putting stuff up high, etc for a few weeks, and put up baby gates to keep her out of areas, that might mean there is a lot less "no" and less stress for you both. 

 

I have been trying to further baby proof like this, and to only tell her ‘no’ when it’s really necessary, but it’s still necessary a lot, between normal toddler stuff like not coloring on the walls and you can’t take your banana into the living room and rub it into the rug, and the tendency to throw things at people.  I also try to couch it in very gentle terms, with a natural response to it built in, because that seems to set her off less.  So, instead of “No, don’t color on the walls!” more like, “We don’t color on the walls, so let’s wipe it off now.  Here’s some paper.”

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25 minutes ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

I have been trying to further baby proof like this, and to only tell her ‘no’ when it’s really necessary, but it’s still necessary a lot, between normal toddler stuff like not coloring on the walls and you can’t take your banana into the living room and rub it into the rug, and the tendency to throw things at people.  I also try to couch it in very gentle terms, with a natural response to it built in, because that seems to set her off less.  So, instead of “No, don’t color on the walls!” more like, “We don’t color on the walls, so let’s wipe it off now.  Here’s some paper.”

As the mother of a 2 year old right now, I hear you. I'd definitely put up some baby gates to keep her in sight at all times, and get some cheap rubbermaid totes or even laundry baskets you can stash in your room or a garage and put lots of stuff away. Good luck!

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Update:  We are doing okay.  Things continue to improve.  It's tough, but mostly normal difficult little kid tough, with episodes of trying to harm herself or raging only a few times a day, now.  (Except on visitation day.  That is still heck.  But next week her visitation is switching to late afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, so at least it will only be a few hours until bedtime after visitation!)  She has done or has appointments for assessments to get her the therapies she needs.  They finally gave us the toddler bed they had offered to supply for her.  We are settling in together.

One of her sisters is really suffering (the one who is placed without a sibling, the other two are together).  She's run away from one foster home, and writes in her journal every day that she hopes somehow she will get to be with her sisters.  We set up Skype meetings between our little one and her so they can see each other more often, and it sounds like it's helping a bit.  I really, really wish we could bring her here and let her be with her sister.  I keep thinking we could squeeze them into the girls' room with some bunk beds.  But we don't have an empty seat in our car.  We've talked about getting a larger car when this one breaks down, and I find myself thinking about getting one sooner--but our furnace and AC just went out and need to be replaced, so I don't know if we can add a car payment right now.

Edited by Michelle Conde
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😞  She got ahold of two of my youngest son’s big rocks from his collection (about five or six inches across) and chucked them at my other son’s head.  He moved, and only one hit him on the shoulder, thankfully.  Dh is saying that if we see more behavior that could really harm our kids, she has to go.  He has written a letter to her caseworker letting her know about this, advising that he believes she should be in a home with no other children under the age of ten except bio siblings, and basically chewing them out for not sharing with us when she was placed the letter her previous foster mom wrote about her behaviors.  I don’t disagree with him, but the thought of sending her away makes me feel physically ill.  This poor, poor little girl.

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Poor kid, and your poor family for not having been prepared 😞

FWIW DS11 has a rock collection but it stays on a shelf so high in a location so unreachable that even he has to sometimes get help to reach it.  I know this isn't ideal, but I wonder if you just need a severe level of toddler-proofing, the kind people with toddlers who do insane things do.  We weren't like thus until we had our 5th child; he could be a product tester for baby proofing and has done any number of bad-judgment things.  Because of him we didn't own a single cutting knife for years (I cut things with a butter knife, of which we owned one and kept it way up).

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Just now, moonflower said:

Poor kid, and your poor family for not having been prepared 😞

FWIW DS11 has a rock collection but it stays on a shelf so high in a location so unreachable that even he has to sometimes get help to reach it.  I know this isn't ideal, but I wonder if you just need a severe level of toddler-proofing, the kind people with toddlers who do insane things do.  We weren't like thus until we had our 5th child; he could be a product tester for baby proofing and has done any number of bad-judgment things.  Because of him we didn't own a single cutting knife for years (I cut things with a butter knife, of which we owned one and kept it way up).

 

Last week I packed ds’s rock collection into a case in his closet that I didn’t think she could open.  I’m still not sure if she did, or if ds took out some of his rocks to look at and didn’t put them away (he is my five-year-old).  I’m wondering if there is some way to make the boys’ door close and latch shut whenever someone lets go of it?  I was looking at the spring-hinge things that automatically close a door, but if you set them tight enough to actually latch shut, they would swing so hard they would slam in someone’s face and hurt them.

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Ah, if he's 5, that's different and more difficult - he's not old enough to be really responsible for taking care of his own stuff in a truly toddler-proofing way. (ime)

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17 minutes ago, moonflower said:

Ah, if he's 5, that's different and more difficult - he's not old enough to be really responsible for taking care of his own stuff in a truly toddler-proofing way. (ime)

 

Yeah.  We told them at least two years younger than our youngest, but now I’m thinking that’s really not enough.

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1 hour ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

Last week I packed ds’s rock collection into a case in his closet that I didn’t think she could open.  I’m still not sure if she did, or if ds took out some of his rocks to look at and didn’t put them away (he is my five-year-old).  I’m wondering if there is some way to make the boys’ door close and latch shut whenever someone lets go of it?  I was looking at the spring-hinge things that automatically close a door, but if you set them tight enough to actually latch shut, they would swing so hard they would slam in someone’s face and hurt them.

A baby gate that automatically swings shut might work.  With twins we had to super toddler proof the house and they were only allowed to wander unattended in the living room, where only age appropriate toys and such were allowed.  I would try to further limit what areas she can access.  (My DD is two years ahead of my twins, so any of her "older" kid stuff stayed in her room, which was blocked to toddlers.)

Edited by melmichigan
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Update:  She is still here with us, and has made so much progress.  The self-harming and hurting others is still happening daily, but it's now down to several times a day.  She is picking up new words all the time, and started putting words together for the first time this week.  We've got nearly all her therapies in place now, and she will hopefully be starting at the relief nursery preschool next week, where she will be getting the rest of them.  Also, those two mornings a week, I will have a few hours of uninterrupted homeschooling time!  We are nearly through with the zillion appointments for everything imaginable, and will soon be down to just having her regular appointments for therapy and visitation.  And she is just generally brighter and happier.  

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Glad things are improving.  How is her sister doing?  Have you applied for a difficulty of care rate for her?  This should have been done long ago but it covers the extra care and supervision she needs due to her behaviors.  It can be $5-15 (or more) extra dollars a day.

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Her sister is doing okay-ish, but they are really, really missing each other.  We had her over for a sleepover Friday night.  They had a wonderful time, though our little one had a very tough time when we had to say goodbye.  We spoke to our bio kids about the possibility of bringing her here to make sure they are okay with it, and are taking steps to make our home able to accommodate another kid.  We spoke to the dhs certifier on Wednesday and told her we feel that these girls really need to be together, and that we would support either bringing sister here or whatever is needed to make that possible.  But it’s ultimately not up to us, so we’ll see what happens.

 I think there is supposed to be an assessment for her difficulty of care sometime later this month.  Apparently the person in charge of that is very overbooked.

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Do those with foster parenting experience know if there is a way to start a savings account for a foster child and ensure that the money will actually go to the child when they’re older?  I know you can do a 529 college savings account for any beneficiary, and maintain control of it until it pays out—but I don’t know if our foster daughter will ever be looking at the possibility of college.  (Early Intervention tested her as severely delayed in all areas except motor skills).  I have great kids’ savings accounts for my other kids that give 3% interest, and they said I can open one for a foster child—but the person I spoke to wasn’t really certain, but thought that control of the account would have to be passed to whoever her legal guardian was in the future.  

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I have tried this and was able to open bank accounts for my twins because I had a letter from the agency  that I was going to be the permanent  carer shortly.

 I had another child that the bank would not open the account without a permission letter from DHHS. I was unable to get that letter. Apparently  the bio parent would have been able to access the account even though the child was not going to go back into bio parent's care.

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