Viewing posts from May, 2016
Today is my 4th wedding anniversary. I know year #4 is not some big milestone, like the 10th and so on....but nevertheless, for me it's a big deal.
So I made all these grand plans to celebrate, and then naturally, we all get sick. I'm sitting in bed with tylenol and tea typing this entry while the kids are napping with a fever and hubby is working on his laptop and sneezing away......
Did you know that we have never been able to celebrate our anniversary? What's with that? I think it's a jinx. During our first wedding anniversary I was pregnant with Valentino. That pregnancy was the death of me, and on the day of our anniversary (and every other day of those horrid 9 months) I was sick and unable to stand for more than 10 minutes. The following year, during our second wedding anniversary, I was pregnant again with Caspian and feeling ill being in the first trimester. Then for our third wedding anniversary I was pregnant AGAIN and then had a miscarriage.
I am glad at least this year I'm not pregnant... but annoyed that we are all sick.
Anyway, enough of my rant. Today, in celebration of our 4th year anniversary on May 27th, I thought it would be nice to write about how me and my husband met, as we are constantly asked about it and my husband is constantly LYING about how it happened. Yes, no joke, he actually lies about it. You see, he hit on me in the club. YES, IN THE CLUB. He's going to kill me when he reads this (he tells everyone it was in a restaurant). When I tell him it was a club, he argues and says that technically there was a restaurant in that club, and we weren't in the club club part of the club, whatever that means. So proper he is. Silly hubby.
So, most of you may not even care to hear the story but I know some do, so here goes. Everyone loves a good romance story, right? This is a condensed version of it.
Five years ago on a Friday night in April I was busy working at my dad's restaurant (Cafe Renaissance in Vienna) playing the violin and hostessing after a long stressful ten hour day of working as a foster care social worker. That day I worked for over 13 hours straight, then rushed home to get ready to go out again and meet some friends at a club in DC. Before leaving, my mom looks at me like I'm crazy and asks how I have the energy to go out to DC after such a long work day. I just smiled, and even though my feet were hurting from working all day, I had to go. One of my guy friends was going to introduce me to his friend, who was British, had a to-die-for accent, and was visiting from California.
So I get to the club (LIMA - rip, I will forever miss you) and I'm awkwardly standing inside the club at the bar alone waiting for my friend to come, when this hot guy comes up to me and says "hello" and starts to chat me up- with a British accent. SWOON. Why yes you can buy me a drink! Then behind him I see my friend who then introduces us. Hubby didn't even know that he was being set up, and didn't know that I was the one who he was being set up with. What a coincidence!
We then went outside and sat down in the seating area outside the club and started chatting. I learned that he was raised in London and recently moved to California. He told me he moved after his dad passed away, how he was so close to his dad, and how he took care of his dad for the last five years of his life. After he told me that I immediately thought....ok, I AM MARRYING THIS ONE! He seems to have his $h!t together, he's responsible, and he loved and cared for his dad. How sweet!!!! This is the kind of guy that may still love me even when I become old fat and ugly. SWOON AGAIN. Ok I'm in love.
This was us that first night:
That night was fantastic. He was due to leave for California the following day but extended his flight to spend more time with me. Our mutual friend later told me he had spent $600 after cancelling his flight last minute just to spend an extra day here so to see me again. WOW.
That weekend I studied him closely and learned as much as I could about him. You see, I just don't enter into a relationship with anyone. That person would have to be pretty special to have piqued my interest. It may sound silly, but I kind of had this checklist in my head that I would tick off before heading into a relationship. This was the checklist:
No interest in drugs: CHECK
Not an alcoholic: CHECK
Has morals and values: CHECK
Is not religious or part of some cult/sect/organized religion: CHECK
Not a creep: CHECK
No criminal record: CHECK
No speeding tickets: CHECK
Wears big boy pants (financially supports himself and doesn't need mommy and daddy's help): CHECK
Open to the idea of fostering children in the future: CHECK
Wants kids: CHECK
Doesn't try to be "cool" like your typical persian man. That means no doing brows, no waxing hair on his chest or back, no over doing the cologne or having ridiculous hairstyles. Confident with the way he is: CHECK
So because I'm super cautious I had my bestie from high school do a search on him to find out as much as she could about him. She worked for a private investigator and knows how to professionally stalk. I wanted her to stalk for me to find out more about him, as he seemed a little too good to be true. I needed to know there was nothing shady about him, and I needed to verify my checklist. She gave me thumbs up and told me that he is cleared. YAY! TIME TO SNATCH HIM UP.
The next few months were spent with him flying here on weekends, and flying me out to his place in Orange County, that was minutes away from the beach. He was literally a prince charming that you hear about in fairy tales. He would fly me out to California twice a month, making sure I travel in nothing less than first class. Honestly though, I would have prefered a private jet. Ok kidding.
That summer he treated me like a queen. I was constantly getting flowers delivered at work. He would shower me with gifts. Gold and diamonds from Tiffany's were no big deal. He took me on amazing vacations. He ALWAYS held the car door open for me. I would notice the little things, like in hotels he wouldn't use the nice shampoo that was for me and would instead use the cheap hotel shampoo for himself. Looking back I smile when thinking of that era. He sure spent a pretty penny on me and gave me lots of time, attention and affection. I was swept off my feet and didn't mind it one bit. It was absolutely perfect. He was investing in his future with me. Smart man he is.
During one of our trips he proposed to me on the beach during a candle lit dinner in the sand. I said yes, and 5 months later we were married. That is another fairytale story in itself. The rest is history.
Happy 4th anniversary baby! You are the best husband and father a girl can dream of. I cannot express how thankful I am for you, every single day. Love you to the moon and back. Here's to many more <3 <3 <3
Just some overdue pics from mother's day weekend:
Celebrating mother's day with my mom. Love her so much. I wish I got the chance to meet my mother in law. She passed away at such a young age, when hubby was just a little kid. Thinking of her also on this day.
Celebrating at Valentino's school. They had a "moms and muffins" themed little mother's day party. Valentino painted a mug for me! Now I know why he came home last week with paint on his fingernails! He was making a surprise for mommy! My heart melts.
Such a fabulous weekend. Hubby took over everything! I got to relax, oversleep, and not do an ounce of housework. He's just the best.
Happy mother's day to all mama's out there!
May is national foster care month. There are not many things closer to my heart than foster care and adoption, so this post is dedicated to prospective foster parents, who may have interest in becoming a foster parent but have no idea how or where to start. I used to be a social worker in my past life, and this is my take on the ins and outs of becoming a foster parent here in Northern VA.
Becoming a foster parent is not for most families. You have to have a big heart, an overabundance of patience, stable home, and thick skin. You have to be prepared to raise a child as your own and then give them back, sometimes suddenly with no warning. You have to be prepared to have your heart broken. Over. And. Over. Again.
To become a foster parent you must go through foster parent training and be approved by your local social services agency or a licensed child placing agency. Not everyone who goes through the training process gets approved. They have social workers look into all aspects of your life, complete background checks and a home study.
Once you are approved you can choose which type of foster care you will provide and also the types of foster children you are willing to take. Some different types of foster care include respite, foster to adopt or short term foster care.
Providing respite care means you are providing support to another foster family by watching their foster child for a few days up to a few weeks. Some foster parents need respite if they want to go out of town and cannot take their foster child with them, or if they need a break on some weekends. Respite is sometimes a good option for beginner foster parents who want to test the waters.
Short term foster care (sometimes called emergency foster care) is sometimes needed when a child is placed in a foster home for a few nights up to a few weeks. These foster families keep the foster child for a very short period of time while the social workers look for biological relatives or a more permanent foster home.
If you're a foster parent who would like to try foster care with the ultimate goal of adopting, you will most likely get foster children who will not be returning to their biological families. These kids will have a treatment goal of long term foster care or adoption.
On average, children stay in foster homes for up to a year and a half. The fastest I've seen a foster child return home has been 6 months, and the longest I've seen has been up to two years.
However, some children start out with the ultimate goal of returning to their birth families, and then end up being adopted by their foster family due to unforseen circumstances (like the biological parents not being able to get it together).
When becoming a foster parent, it is important to think about what type of child you will accept into your home. This is kind of a big deal. You need to think about what kind of child will be a best fit for your family. For example, it may not be wise to accept a 17 year old male foster child when you have a 16 year old daughter at home. It also may not be the best idea to accept a 7 year old foster child who has violent tendencies when you have a toddler at home. Keep in mind that you don't always know what kind of trauma the foster child has been exposed to and how that would affect their behavior in your home. Social workers will inform you of everything they know, but that could be very limited. They will usually have team meetings to discuss which foster families they would ask to take in a child coming into foster care. It is not the end of the world if you say no to a placement that you're not comfortable with. The health and safety of your own family needs to always come first.
Over the years I've gotten lots of questions from people interested in helping foster children. Here are some of the most common FAQs:
What kind of children come into foster care?
Children who have been abused and/or neglected and removed from their homes. They are all so very different. They all have their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, issues and needs. The majority are teens and sibling groups. Rarely are there newborns or infants. Some of the children are violent, but most are harmless. I've know some who have had to be constantly moved because they get physically violent, and other's who wouldn't hurt a fly. Some have a whole host of medical issues and are constantly in and out of the hospital, while other's may be extremely pleasant and loving but may wet the bed and hoard food in their room.
One time I was talking to this little girl who had just been placed in a foster home. I asked her what her favorite thing about being in her foster home was. Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed "I have a bed to sleep in!" I asked her to elaborate, and she told me that she was used to sleeping in the "tube."
"What's a tube?" I asked her.
"You know, those tubes you play inside at the playground."
My heart then proceeded to shatter into a million pieces..........
Anyways, most kids who enter the system are just normal sweet kids who have been dealt a bad hand in life and have been through unfair circumstances. Most of them are frightened. If you have kids, imagine how they would feel going to a strangers home, sometimes in the middle of the night, having to sleep eat and live with people they have never seen before. It's hard for them. Expect some issues to arise.
How much do foster parents in Virginia get paid?
First off, being a foster parent isn't a job that gives you a steady income. Also, it's not really income; it's reimbursement for food, clothing, enrichment activities, etc. The amount of reimbursement you recieve is not taxable income. Your monthly checks will arrive at the beginning of each new month for the previous month. This is not something you would want to do for the money. And if you are in it just for the money, then shame on you. Most foster families spend all the reimbursement on the foster child and then some more. Social workers determine how you should get reimbursed based on the level of the child's needs. When a child just comes into the foster care system, their foster family will most likely get a flat rate of $1600 per child for the first month they are in care. Some foster parents get excited because that can add up. I had one foster mother recieve nearly $5,000 the first month of caring for three new foster children. However, after that first month the pay significantly dropped after having a VEMAT meeting where the child's needs are discussed and points from a checklist are added up to determine the monthly reimbursement rate. The agency also covers all medical expenses for the child.
During that first month it is the job of the foster parent to document each and every little thing that your foster child has going on. Do they wake up in the middle of the night, and how often? Document it. How often do they have tantrums? Document all of them. Do they try to run away? Do they not eat well? Are they violent? Are they excitable? Angry? Happy? Depressed? Do they wet the bed? How do they eat? Are they doing well in school? DOCUMENT EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. All of this will be taken into account during a meeting you and some social workers will have that determine the rate of reimbursement. The social workers have a checklist they go through (called the VEMAT) that determines reimbursement rate based on the foster child's needs.
This is the VEMAT that they will go over with you in order to determine what you will get paid:
Another thing regarding reimbursement, you can't negotiate to get more money. You can't justify getting paid more if the foster child keeps the lights on all day and adds to the electricity bill, or breaks your expensive household items or furniture. If you come across like you're in it for the money then the social workers will question your motives and will probably stop placing children in your home.
What is the difference in becoming a foster parent through my local department of social services vs a licensed foster care placement agency?
When a child comes into foster care, their local department of social services assumes legal guardianship over them. For instance, if a child is removed from his or her home in Alexandria, then the Alexandria Department of Social Services (social worker) is considered their legal guardian. The department's social workers will look through their own pool of foster parents first to see which of their foster families would be a good fit for the child coming into care. If they cannot find an ideal family from their own foster families, they will send an email to a number of foster care placement agencies detailing what type of family they are looking for based on the child's specific needs. These agencies will then have a team meeting to discuss which of their foster families would be a good fit for the child. Then the Social Services social workers will pick a family they think would be a good fit for the child from the suggestions of the placement agencies.
Every child entering foster care is assigned a social worker from the Department of Social Services. If you become a foster parent through social services, then your main point of contact will be the department's social worker of the foster child. They will come visit you and the foster child in your home at least once a month. They will also sometimes conduct unnanounced home visits.
If you become a foster parent through a therapeutic foster care placement agency, that agency will assign one of their own social workers to work with you and the foster child. That social worker then reports to the child's social worker from the state (social services) who has legal guardianship over the child. The social worker from your foster care placement agency will typically provide more support and may conduct more home and or community visits.
Can I work and still become a foster parent? I have a full time job.
Most foster parents I've came across all have jobs. Some have full time jobs, some part time, and some are stay at home moms. You can absolutely hold a job and be a foster parent, but sometimes it can get difficult. It helps if your job is flexible as you will probably have to attend a bunch of meetings. There are treatment team meetings, court appointments, visitation with birth families, assessments, therapy appointments, medical appointments etc. The social workers working with you and your foster child will help you manage all of it. There have been many times where I have provided a chauffeur service just to help out the foster parents. Also, if the foster child is not school aged, daycare is almost always paid for by social services.
Is there any other way I can help foster children without becoming a foster parent?
Yes! You can become a CASA (court appointed special advocate) volunteer. CASA volunteers are great advocates of foster children. They visit the foster child regularly, gather information on the case, interview everyone important in the child's life, prepare written reports for court hearings, and they participate in court hearings and team meetings.
You can also contact your local social services department (find the list below) or any child placement agency (also find below) and ask how you can help children in foster care. Some agencies have different programs that you can volunteer for or have funds you can donate to that directly help foster children. Most all agencies have some kind of Holiday toy drive, and most all would be more than happy to accept donated items that may be beneficial to foster children. Some items in high demand include backpacks, clothes, shoes, bikes, toys, school supplies, etc. Hygiene items are great for donating to teens such as toothbrushes, deodorant, hair brushes etc. Agencies can also really use suitcases. Mini suitcases and also big ones, because there is nothing more heartbreaking than having a foster child moving from foster home to foster home with all his or her belongings in a trash bag. It is bad enough that some kids have to constantly move homes, but doing so with their stuff in a trash bag just makes my heart sink.
I hope that by reading all this you have a greater understanding of how the foster care process works. There is such a need for foster parents, and while the job certainly comes with drawbacks, I feel like nothing in the world can be more rewarding. If you want to know that your life really amounts to something- then help a child.
Here is a list of Northern Virginia's social services agencies:
Alexandria Social Services: https://www.alexandriava.gov/Adoption
Arlington Social Services: http://family.arlingtonva.us/foster-care/
Fairfax Social Services: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/childrenyouth/fca.htm
Loudoun Social Services: https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?nid=1004
Manassas City Social Services: http://www.manassascity.org/195/Foster-Care
Prince William Social Services: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/socialservices/Pages/Foster-Care.aspx
Here is a list of all Northern Virginia therapeutic foster care placement agencies:
Adolescent & Family Growth Center (Springfield, VA): http://www.afgcinc.com/index.php/be-a-foster-parent
ADORE Children and Family Services (Arlington, VA): http://www.adore-children.com/
First Home Care (Alexandria branch): http://www.firsthomecare.com/
For Children's Sake of Virginia (Chantilly): http://www.fcsva.org/
EMBRACE (Annandale brach): http://embracetfc.com/locations/annandale
Northern Virginia Family Services (Oakton): http://www.nvfs.org/