It's October now, which means we have passed the one year anniversary of meeting the girls. One year. Already.
It's shocking, really. Time is now moving at double/triple speed of what it did before we had kids on the farm. Our time is spent so differently now. This past three-day weekend was a grand example of this. On Monday night, we were getting ready for bed and we started rehashing our weekend: birthday party at the park, 1st grade teacher and her family over for dinner and playdate, afternoon fun on the lake (the girls' first boat ride), a trip to the pumpkin patch... We had so much we had planned to do this past weekend, and none of those things are on the list above. Tiffany joked "Our weekend flew by and we got nothing done... the 'us-before-kids' would have built an entire house in the last three days"... and she's right. Our weekends used to be full of household projects that we'd knock out one weekend after another. But now, the girls are our primary project... the project that will never end. The project that reminds us to live a little, to begin traditions, and to have fun making memories. :)
We went to Six Flag Fright Fest again this year, only this time we got to go with our neighbor friends and their kids. We had a blast. The girls have really matured since the first time we went. They weren't afraid of any of the spooky costumes or decorations and they even rode their first upside-down rollercoaster. I was really impressed by their willingness to try new things. At their age, I was afraid of pretty much anything in a costume... Santa included. (I mean, c'mon, a man in weird clothing breaking into your house at night while you are asleep isn't okay) And I damn sure wasn't going upside down in metal cart with only a seatbelt and a lap bar. Come to think of it, how did any of these things ever become considered fun, good ideas?!? Seriously.
I should also mention that the girls are well into the school year and are really absorbing everything they are being taught. It's remarkable, really. To think that a year ago they could barely communicate... I was telling Tiffany the other day that I had a weird realization that I do not notice when the girls learn new words anymore. They used to come home saying something new and because their vocabulary was so limited, we'd take notice of it. Now, its just normal. I really only notice their advancements in humor now.. and believe me, they are hilarious. Five and Six year olds tell the best jokes... finally, I've found my people. The downside of this is that they are growing up too fast. I already miss the days of their beloved mispronunciations... maybe i wanted to be "Mama Ashwee" forever. :(
Needless to say, it's been a whirlwind year. The girls have brought more joy to our lives than we could have ever imagined possible. They are so funny and ridiculous... We're just so proud to have the opportunity to be their mommies. They deserve the world.
Last, I'd like to end this post by talking about something else I'm really proud of. Since starting this blog and sharing my "Foster-to-Adopt Fun Facts", I have had countless people reach out to me with interest in adopting from the foster care system.... and some have already gotten themselves licensed and are waiting for their match!! I cannot even put into words how it feels to know that our little family has started a legacy of fostering to adopt. Not only will more children find forever families, but to know that our girls will get to know other children that can relate to them in ways that we can't, is completely invaluable. Plus, building a support group of other families who have gone through this is a wonderful gift to Tiffany and I. Who knows, maybe someday I can have a guest blogger or two tell their stories :)
When Tiffany and I decided we wanted to start our family via fostering-to-adopt, I immediately sprung into action to learn as much about the process as I could. I'm one of those people who tries to know everything about whatever it is I'm going to do. I like to prepare and I DO NOT care for the unexpected.
Like most of the world, I had heard all the negative stuff about foster care and foster children and I wanted to make sure we weren't about to naively embark on a journey that would FOREVER change our lives. It was around this time that one of my bestest friends had started talking to me about an organization she had started volunteering for, CASA. I had never heard of CASA but upon a little research, it appeared to be EXACTLY the kind of organization I'd want (and need) to dedicate my spare time to.
Any of you who know me well, know that I LOVE true crime. I obsessively watch Dateline/The First 48/Snapped/etc, I read true crime novels, watch documentaries, and even public trials... it's a weird interest I have. I've always half-joked that in my retirement, I'll just hang out at the courthouse watching trials. I realize how sick this sounds, but I know lots of women who are exactly like me. (Imagine my jealously when I was watching the Casey Anthony trial and saw my sister chilling in the courtroom behind Anthony's bench!! Stop one-upping me, Crissie!) True crime and law are just things I (and my sister for that matter) am naturally drawn to.
Out of high school, I had initially planned to go to school for Criminal Justice and had dreamed of being a US Marshall for the majority of my life. For one reason or another, that obviously didn't happen... so I've settled for these other outlets. When I heard about CASA and what it was about, I immediately signed up and was training within a week or two.
For those of you not familiar with CASA, I'm going to let internet definitions explain it better than I can and chime in where I feel appropriate:
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes. Wikipedia
What does a CASA do?
Read the FAQ from my local CASA program here.
In some states, the CASA organization is known as Guardians Ad Litem (GAL). So, if you go looking for your local chapter and you aren't in Texas, search for that as well. Or, check out my link below to easily locate the program nearest you!
I have found CASA to be an AMAZING organization that does so much for foster children. CASAs are the eyes and ears that the court, CPS, the lawyers, and even the foster parents can't always be. They interact with all of these different people in order to paint a full picture of what a child is going through and makes sure that these children get what they need and deserve. CASA is truly more than what can be described. It's research, investigation, mediation, mentoring, service, and even friendship.
For me, it has been the PERFECT solution to appease so many interests I have in life... and as a bonus, you SERIOUSLY help out some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Saying all of this, if you have found yourself drawn to action after reading my posts about foster care, but haven't known how to help... This. Is. Your. Opportunity.
A handful of volunteer hours a month can literally make a BIG impact on society.
Let me say that again.
A handful of volunteer hours a month can literally make a BIG impact on society.
Plus, it will change your life.
I challenge you to find your local CASA/GAL office and at least attend an info session. See if it's something you think you could invest your time in. If so, I can pretty much guarantee you that it will be just as personally rewarding to you as it will be impacting someone(s) entire life.
And if you think you want to foster or foster-to-adopt someday, the experience and knowledge you gain about the legal-side of the foster care system is invaluable. There's just not enough time in foster training to get you as much knowledge as you need about the legal process(es)... and when it comes to adoption, you'll be sooooo thankful you did the work.
To find the CASA/GAL Program nearest you, click here.
As always, if you have questions for me, please contact me via the CONTACT page on this site.
I originally set up this blog for our friends and family to keep up with our foster-to-adopt process. Ultimately, I wanted to just write everything out for, mostly, private use. As a bonus, I thought that it could eventually serve as a great historical "lesson of things" for our children to look back on when they get older.
The initial idea of this blog was to help our distant family and friends follow along on our journey of fostering to adopt and the rapid changes in our lives, as best I could.
Now that we have adopted Thing 1 and Thing 2, I have started an information dump on my Facebook account to educate those around us on everything we learned, and to ultimately make right the wrong information so many people have about the foster care system. As a result, we have had an AMAZING response from people asking for more info.
I have been very encouraged to keep this information train rolling and have even had friends, family, and people I've never met reach out for information, advice, and direction.
I’ve felt guilty writing novels, as status updates, on Facebook. Although it isn’t exactly Twitter, part of Facebook’s appeal is brevity. I imagine not everyone appreciates seeing the 7 paragraphs I write every few days in their news feed. So, I’ve decided to bring all of those past posts and all future posts to this blog. In doing so, it will also put this information into the public arena… rather than just broadcasting to the extent of our Facebook privacy settings.
So, for those of you who have already been following the blog and have read the posts on Facebook, excuse the migration and duplicate information.
But, please continue to keep your eyes peeled for new updates both about the happenings of the “Jensens in Texas” and about the ins-and-outs of the foster care system.
And last but not least, please please please (pretty please)… share this information as you see fit on your social media outlet of choice.
Knowledge is key. One simple share could make a huge impact :)
So I've taken a short break from posting a foster to adopt fun fact of the day. The truth is, the next fact I have for you isn't fun at all... Not even a little bit. But, it's a fact of the world we live in and something I feel everyone should be aware of.
The reality is, some of the adoption eligible kids in foster care will never find a forever family. Some of these kids, as a result of their abuse, have high medical, physical, and emotional needs that make them hard to get adopted into families. Some have experienced trauma, turned PTSD, not only from being exposed to trauma, but from being removed from their homes, abusive environments, and even from being bounced around from foster home to foster home.
For reference: Our girls were in foster care for a little over a year and we were their sixth placement.
Foster kids, when left in the foster care system, can easily fall through the adoption cracks. Everything they know and everyone they get comfortable with can change in an instant... Due to no fault of their own. It's a fact of their lives that they can and will eventually come to expect.
If any of you ever changed schools in your childhood, you probably have a glimpse of what this is like: You are disoriented and somewhat afraid of what your life will be like in the new environment. You miss your friends, routines, (and for these kids, even their bed) and because of that, you shut yourself off to anything new as a means to protect yourself. You stop allowing yourself to get comfortable.
Now, put yourself in this situation over and over and over again and see what your life looks like. Do you even take the time to get to know anyone anymore? Do you let anyone in? Probably not, because you don't want to turn around and miss it all when it all changes again.
On top of that, where are you academically?!? With every new school you fall in to a different place in the education system. Maybe you were just getting the hang of addition at your previous school but the new school is already working on fractions and now you are getting left behind. You lose confidence in yourself and now you begin acting out as a means to distract others from your insecurities.
This is the reality of things, my friends.
Finally, put yourself in a place where you are turning 18 and aging out of the system: You are an adult now. You are responsible for yourself. But, you have no family. Where do you go and who do you turn to?!? Were you able to graduate? Can you provide for yourself?
When I really imagine myself in these situations, it easily becomes my worst nightmare. Those of us who haven't endured any of this grew up with privilege... MAJOR privilege.
All of this to say, the kids that spend a considerable amount of time in the system, here in Texas anyway, end up on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) website.
As a last resort for finding these kids homes, the state sets up profiles and posts images of the kids for people like you and I to browse. It's the Petfinder.com for foster children and it's open for everyone to see.
(Please note that thousands of kids make it through the system without ever being posted on TARE. Our girls were never added to TARE. They had a diligent caseworker who worked overtime to find her kids homes and for that, I'm so thankful.)
Most of the kids on TARE have very high medical needs, but not all of them. Some are just regular, everyday kids and/or sibling groups trying to find a home where they can all be adopted together.
This website is where my facts get real. This is where you start to see how big the need is for adoptive families.... Because, what happens to these kids when they become adults?
I suppose to some, ignorance is bliss when it comes to these harsh truths of our society. But once you know, I guarantee you'll never forget... And in sharing this knowledge, maybe we can start to understand our foster care system and begin to try to make a difference. (There are plenty of other ways to make a difference besides becoming a foster parent. I'll get to those in future posts.)
And this is your not-so-fun foster to adopt fact of the day.
Thanks for listening.
For more information please visit: Texas Adoption Resource Exchange