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What Foster & Adoptive Families Need To Learn From This Brave Mother

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A Final Piece of Wisdom from my Mother

My mom was (IS) my superhero. She got this title during her four and a half year battle with cancer. She was diagnosed in Fall 2009. I moved home from college at the beginning of 2010 after I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Knoxville, Tennessee. I watched not only my mom, but my best friend, fight against the disease running through her body. It brought some incredibly difficult times, but it also brought some precious moments I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life.

“I watched not only my mom, but my best friend, fight against the disease running through her body.”

While she went through this battle, she had an amazing group of people around her who loved, encouraged and supported her throughout the journey. Her small group from church became a source of strength to her. Some of them had or were currently fighting cancer and offered her a hand to hold or an understanding ear. All of them offered help, comfort and prayers in the difficult times and celebration and joy in the good. This was the support group that walked beside her in the ups and downs of life, including her cancer journey.

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Two and a half years after being home with my mom (which included me living with her for about a year and a half and teaching in the same school as her for two years), I decided to move back to Knoxville, TN. Leaving my mom was incredibly hard, but I knew that she was in great hands with a small group who loved her like family. While I had made great friends on the coast, I knew Knoxville was going to be the place where I found my support system. I did just that through church and my coworkers at school. It wasn’t too long that I had surrounded myself with people who would offer me help, comfort and prayers in the difficult times and celebration and joy in the good. I had what my superhero had – a support system that gave her so much hope and joy.

“I had what my superhero had – a support system that gave her so much hope and joy.”

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In April 2014 we knew my mom’s health was taking a downward turn. After weeks of inconclusive tests and scans, we received the news that mom’s cancer had spread to her kidneys and nothing else could be done. My brother and I drove home to be with her in her final days. As I sat with her one day, she turned and looked at me and said, “I know you’re eventually going to be ok because of the amazing support system you have around you.” It was at that point that I realized God had brought amazing people into my life to love, encourage and support me for this very moment – the moment I was going to say good-bye to my superhero this side of Heaven. It was only a few days later that she passed away on May 19, 2014.

“For many of you that are raising children in a foster or adopted family that isn’t easy; life isn’t always easy.”

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And I knew she was right. Losing my mom has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and I can’t say having a support system around me has been easy. But I can say I am still standing because of it. People have sat with me as I cry; they have poured love on me in a multitude of ways; they have encouraged me and helped me put one foot in front of the other.

“But there are others out there walking the same path that are willing to be open and vulnerable to learning how to go through this journey together.”

By no means was I created to do life alone and neither are you. I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to. Sometimes these support systems happen naturally and other times you have to seek them out, but they are there to help you in the ups and downs that come with your life. For many of you that are raising children in a foster or adopted family that isn’t easy; life isn’t always easy. But there are others out there walking the same path that are willing to be open and vulnerable to learning how to go through this journey together. I can promise it will make all the difference in the world.

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“I’m Sorry, We Can’t Share That Information With You”: IEP Advice for Foster Parents (Part 2)

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There are many laws and practices that exist in the world that cause never-ending frustrations for the people who find themselves in the middle of those circumstances. Those laws and practices have been established for very legitimate reasons. More often than not, it is because at some point someone decided to take advantage of his or her liberties. As a result, a rule had to be put in place to keep others from doing the same thing. Regardless of the fact that we may understand the logic behind such regulations, it doesn’t make them any easier to digest when we find ourselves faced with the limitations of such restrictions.

“In order to lessen this frustration, speak openly with the school’s administration, social workers, etc.”

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I can imagine this is what it is like when you as foster parents sit in an IEP meeting about your child. While you have a right to be there and are encouraged to attend, there are different types of information you are not privy to because it is considered confidential. Last week I mentioned that a child’s biological parents can retain certain rights unless they have clearly severed them. Even when biological parents have cut all rights, most children are considered to be in the custody of the state. Thus, you as foster parents don’t have rights to certain confidential information.

“You will make some decisions that backfire because of missing information, but recognize you are doing the best you can and are providing a great environment for your child to learn and grow.”

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Yes, this is frustrating, but it is simply the reality of what you are facing. In order to lessen this frustration, speak openly with the school’s administration, social workers, etc. They will share with you as much information as they can on the child’s progress and behavior at school. Understand that there will be limitations to the information you get, but do the very best with whatever information you can receive. Recognize how you can use what you know to set up the best practices in your home that will help your child be successful. Give yourself grace and forgiveness. You will make some decisions that backfire because of missing information, but recognize you are doing the best you can and are providing a great environment for your child to learn and grow.

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