If I were a font I would be Times New Roman; boring, simple. I answered some questions and became an owl, though 20% of the time I'm a peacock. Colors keep me entertained when I'm bored.
Things I have learned from 1.5 days of respite care, you know, because we’re first timers and we had no clue what to expect.
First of all, we didn’t even think we would be called to be a respite family mainly because we are only in this to adopt (different blog post coming soon). So it really came as a shock to us that upon being certified to foster for 3 days that we received a call asking us to be a respite family to a 17 year old.
When the caseworker called, the only information we were given is that he was 17, was a smoker but that he had no behaviors that we had to worry about. I didn’t know that I needed to ask questions - so my husband and I said yes and the caseworker said she’d call back.
She called back 3 hours later and said when we could pick him up and how long the stay would be. She was literally going to hang up with only giving us that information. As soon as she was about to hang up I said, “Whoa, hold on, is there anything I need to know?”
Her response: “Oh well, yeah I guess we need to work out your schedule for Friday.”
Me: “What do you mean, is he not in school?”
Caseworker: “Oh, well, no. He dropped out and is in the process of getting his GED. So he’ll need supervision on Friday. He can come here or you can watch him all day. Oh, also, he has diabetes - he knows how to handle all of his medication. But he has no behaviors, so I think that’s all you need to know.”
Frustrating. Josh and I had no clue on how to even prepare for this as this was our first experience. So we ran to walmart and stocked up on chips and cereal - standard teenager things.
And here begins our learning.
After he had been in our house for a total of 30 minutes, he was already in our fridge (totally ok) just to see what there was to eat. He asked me if we wouldn’t mind getting some fruit - mainly because of his diabetes it’s better for him to eat natural sugar than processed. I said that was absolutely not a problem and either myself or Josh would go out later and get it. We sat down together after I cooked fajitas and talked a little about where he was, where we were and just joked about several things - this kid is genuinely a good kid. After talking for a bit he told us that he had been arrested last month and had sat in jail for three days because the cops suspected him of doing something illegal even though he was just walking around. I’m sorry, kid, but they’re not keeping you in jail for three days for carrying a mountain dew in your backpack. He also mentioned that he was in a physical fight with his younger foster brother last week.
The caseworker told us NOTHING about that - um, being arrested is huge.
So I told him I was going to run out and get some fruit and some Starbucks pods for the weekend, and he asked to come along just because he likes to get out and walk around. I’m not that type of person so I suggested Josh go with him because Josh is better at wasting time than I am. So Josh takes him out and stops at Starbucks first to get my pods. Kid talks non-stop about how good the smoothies and banana bread are and how they are the best he’s ever had. Josh figured $6.00 was no biggie - so he got him both.
They go to wal-mart next to pick up fruit and wander around and Josh thinks they’re getting bananas and apples. No. This kid wants cut up watermelon, cantaloupe, and something else - also known as the expensive kind. Josh justified it saying thinking that it was going to last all weekend. They wander around and kid talks about how much he loves diet Mountain Dew. Josh says, “We can get it for you if that’s what you want to drink.” He agrees and seems totally grateful. Again, no big deal - we like to have things we want, too. They come home and he pops open the bags of chips we picked up. No biggie - we got it for him.
Well, by this morning, all of it was gone. We don’t care, but, dang - why are you drinking a 2 liter of Diet Mountain Dew??? He hadn’t consumed more than a glass or two before it was lights out, but apparently he got thirsty in the middle of the night, and well, voila.
I worked from home today and worked until 11:30 and he played the xbox all morning. My sister bought us lunch since we were giving her a laptop we weren’t using anymore and he picked up our dishes and put them in the dishwasher (he also took out the trash this morning) - didn’t ask him to do either of those things, but he’s super polite.
Well, we had told him we were going to have pizza tonight and, because we knew he liked to walk around, we were just going to go to cool springs and eat Brixx and walk around the mall. Dinner went fine and we headed to the mall - we went into several stores and we could really tell by the way he was walking around that he wanted us to offer to buy him something (similar to the smoothie and the fruit and the diet mountain dew). Seriously, we went into 4 different stores looking at the prices of skinny jeans (and he made it perfectly clear he didn’t have any money on him) and commented on what good deals they were. We went into Gamestop (a favorite of his and Josh’s) and he goes straight to the clearance video games, looks, grabs Josh and asks his opinion on what video game was the best deal because “they are only $8.99”. I had to just turn and walk out of the store and wait for them to be done. I WAS NOT buying anything else. The walk back to car consisted of talks about how he was out of diet Mountain Dew. Josh jokingly said he shouldn’t have had the whole thing in one night and that was the end of the conversation. Kid came home and consumed the rest of the ice cream, half a gallon of milk and half a cup of peanut butter M&Ms.
This behavior isn’t uncommon - I think I just wasn’t prepared for it. the food isn’t a big deal, again, the majority of it was purchased with him in mind. I don’t care that he gets thirsty and drinks, and drinks and drinks. I don’t mind that he gets hungry and eats and eats and eats. Josh and I are concerned that there’s probably a history of food not being available to him or there not being enough all the time (also something we should have known). It could also be a diabetes thing. Who knows? I don’t really even mind the passive attempts to get us to offer to buy him something, because, honestly, we enabled that behavior.
So tips for the future and tips for tomorrow through Sunday:
- ALWAYS ask before you commit if there’s any information you need to know. (Are they enrolled in school? If so, where? Do they have any medical conditions or medication they need to take? Are there any past legal issues? Are there any aggressive behaviors?)
- Buy food to make lunch/dinner/breakfast every day. Buy only healthy snacks and have a bowl of fruit available. Going out is not a great idea - it may expose them to things that they’ve never been exposed to, and while that’s not bad, it’s not a great thing to imply you get to be exposed to this all the time and they don’t.
- Have a set “lights out” time. Have a bottle of water and healthy snacks in the room in case they get hungry/thirsty in the middle of the night.
- Avoid going to places with price tags - plan outings to the zoo or park, board games, or at-home movies.
- Don’t refer to them as foster kids - I’m SO working on this one - I didn’t realize I used that term until after I said it and then I felt awful for referring to him as that.
- Continue to encourage in the things they do well - you’re talented, you’re smart, you beat me terribly at Monopoly.
- Have a list of things that must be done every day - shower, brush teeth, make bed, etc. I didn’t realize the first one was necessary, but, well, here we are. We will be adjusting our house rules.
I wish I had known all of that before we accepted the respite request - but, well, here’s to learning.
- stillwishingforfaries said: Being in the thick of it right now it really is a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. I keep saying, now I know and will file it away for next time. We are also finding out many things we weren’t told when S came to live with us.
- fostercaresymphony said: I always ask as many questions as I can as if I were receiving a placement! I know its only short term but no matter what you are still going to have to deal with the behaviors in your home. :) I think they couldve done more to keep you informed.
- somethinglikegrace posted this