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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

A rare bit of good news.  We had an IEP meeting last week at the Department of Education office, and everything went right.  Due process wasn’t trampled.  Laws weren’t blatantly broken.  Best of all, Blitzen’s absurd classification was corrected.  She’ll now have better options if she attends public school someday.

Not to state the obvious, but kids in care are disproportionately diagnosed with behavioral, emotionally and learning disabilities and have epically bad educational outcomes.

Carrie and I work in education and have genius relatives with huge expertise in special ed.  We have a team of education experts through our agency.  We’re persistent, ferocious and well-resourced.  Despite that, it took 2.5 years to change a mistake that everyone agreed was egregious and obvious.

Let’s save the big conversations about American education for another time when we’re ready to consider institutional racism, economic violence, adultism, corporate influence, our desire to separate Children Destined for Success from Troubled Kids and the anachronism of 19th century factory-model schools in an information age.  But are there little things we can do to support kids in care long before we succeed in reinventing public education?

Blitzen has had many addresses and attended many schools.  Her records haven’t moved with her.  Can we encourage school stability for kids in care?  Can we better share access to records from school to school?

As foster parents, Carrie and I were extremely limited in our ability to access due process and remedy errors, negligence and incompetence.  Any time we made requests or appeals, the first response was a variation on “Only the birth parent can request that.”  Eventually we’d always get Blitzen’s mom’s signature, but it became a way for the DOE to delay, postpone and avoid action. Can we make it easier for foster parents and social workers to advocate for kids?  Does anyone have policy fixes that we should be supporting?  (I assume the Annie Casey Foundation has recommendations if I look carefully enough.)

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Practice, practice, practice. Or not so much, if you are Blitzen.  She joined many other NYC 4th graders in the opportunity of a lifetime – a giant recorder concert at Carnegie Hall.  She was very excited, she had been talking about it for months and pretty much never practicing her recorder.

The big day comes and Blitzen falls asleep mid-concert. I kid you not.  How anyone could fall asleep while 300 4th graders screech make beautiful music on the recorder, I cannot imagine.  The little boy next to her tried in vain to wake her up but no luck.

When I asked her about it she said, ‘I didn’t sleep through everything, just the talking parts.’  Ok, apparently there was to be some educational component to this music festival?  Hmmm – maybe more recorders next time, less chitchat.

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I’ve mentioned before that Blitzen has an incorrect diagnosis on her IEP.  If she is going back into the public school system, we must have it changed, we must.  So, Blitzen has to be evaluated, again.

We had a plan, it was – as you might imagine – thoughtful.  But carelessness and inattention rule the day, and a 24 year old intern was sent to do the delicate work of ensuring educational opportunity for Blitzen – work that we were told would be performed by a phd with years of experience dealing with children of trauma.

The young eager do-gooder thought it wise to begin her discussion with a distrustful, traumatized, resistant child in care with low self esteem by peering into her big fat file, rattling a few pages, glancing up and saying, ‘So, it says here that you have a history of tantrums, how is that going?’  Then she started prattling on about how this was all going to finally help Blitzen do well in school.

The senseless whippersnapper really should have just said – Oh, I see in this file that is kept by a bunch of white bureaucrats so that they can write down lies about you and your family and then share the information with whoever the heck wants to look at it, including me a total stranger that you have never laid eyes on before, that you are not only very dumb but also a very bad little girl.

Well, as you can imagine, this interaction really relaxed Blitzen. She was eager to please and ready to do her best work with the understanding that this person was here to engage her and guide her, here was someone that could see that she is a creative, talented, smart, curious child, here is someone that clearly has no hidden agenda that would endanger her or jeopardize her precarious place in the world. Here was someone that she could trust. Rainbows and unicorns magically appeared and all was right in the world.

OR perhaps Blitzen was sucked into the vortex of fight or flight* by her hard-wired, survival driven synapses and overactive adrenal system that resulted in 2 hours of drama, hysteria and very very little ‘evaluating’.

Are you crying or are you screaming? I cried, Andrew screamed (Andrew is not really a screamer but he has a look that is really loud and capable of withering a person completely). Blitzen has another appointment, in a place that she is comfortable in (her own school) with a professional.  But I fear it is too little, too late.

* in Blitzen’s case, we should really call it fight AND flight – she is amazingly capable of doing both of these things simultaneously.

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Andrew and I have both experienced, in the last 36 hours, that look.  That look from ‘professionals’ associated with Blitzen’s case.

That look that says ‘you are troublesome foster parents, you are making my life difficult by demanding that we do all that we should which is way more than we feel that we can.’

That look that says, ‘Oh, we’ve written your child off (not that we in anyway consider her to be your child) and you should too.’

 

That ‘When this was all headed for adoption, you were committed, passionate, model foster parents that we begged to speak on panels, rally new recruits, participate in city-wide ad campaigns. But now, you are a pain in the ass and we’re tempted to just accept false allegations against you so we can make you go away quicker’ look.

We’ve both experienced that moment when it has become crystal clear that this child is going back into a social system of grinding poverty, family dysfunction, racial and domestic violence, a broken and battered educational system that is really just a pipeline to prison/welfare dependency/homelessness/teen pregnancy/addiction, where she will be lost. And sadly, the look in their eyes says ‘we simply don’t care.’

I am sure you all are familiar with that look.

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Blitzen is teaching a special course at her school again – she is working with the music teacher and teaching a group of 2nd graders how to write songs.  Blitzen is quite the lyricist, by the way.  I am sure that no one is surprised by that.  I can’t wait to hear the future hits this group produces.

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I’ve decided, for my own sanity, to no longer participate in things like IEP meetings and court.  Andrew has agreed to take these tasks on.  I feel a little guilty, these jobs suck.  But the more time goes on, the more and more I am aware that I  simply cannot do these things.  If I use up my patience on these endeavors, I have nothing left for Blitzen.

There was an IEP meeting yesterday. Or I should say there was supposed to be an IEP meeting. It was rescheduled to yesterday so that Blitzen’s mom could come – everyone worked around her schedule.  And she didn’t show up. So they didn’t have the meeting.  Yeah, that is right.  And I just can’t.  So I am not.

Court is scheduled for Friday – we’ll see if anything happens. I am not going.

 

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I like a plan, I like to prepare.  On Sunday afternoon, Blitzen had an early afternoon playdate.  When it was over, she started to get upset as she often does at the conclusion of things.  She began her usual – you never let me do anything, you always say no, I hate you monologue.  But I was feeling particularly zen.

Carrie: ‘Blitzen, it is Sunday afternoon and we have no plans.  What would you like to do?’

Blitzen: ‘You’ll just say no, you only want to do what you want to do.’

Carrie: ‘Hmmm, it probably does feel that way a lot of the time.  What do you want to do this afternoon?’

Blitzen: ‘I want to go to Chelsea!’

Carrie: ‘Ok, what would you like to do in Chelsea?’

Blitzen: ‘I’ll tell you when we get there!’

Now, I started to think about asking a bunch of questions but instead I took a deep breath and just said, great, let’s go.

I think Blitzen was pretty surprised.  I know I was pretty surprised with myself but it was the right thing to do — it was a lazy Sunday afternoon, we had no where to be, why not have an adventure.

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I am pretty angry and stressed and really very sad because a year ago we were in one place and now we are in a totally different place in regards to reunification / TPR.  There is too much s@*t to even explain but Andrew summed it up beautifully, ‘It would be one thing if we were (and by we – I really mean the agency) engaged in concurrent planning.  But instead, we are simply not planning for anything at all – we are non-current planning!’  We are adrift.  The agency is not trying to meaningfully engage and support the biological parents but they also don’t seem to think that TPR is really feasible.  And they are suddenly paying attention to the rules – mom has to be at the IEP meeting, they say.  Yes, ok, I get it and I agree.  But you never gave a flying fig newton about that before and why did you wait until 48 hours before the meeting to invite her and then send us frantic and frankly snotty emails about how we are not allowed to set up meetings without bio mom.  We didn’t ‘set it up’ – this in NYC and the DOE has attitude.  They sent us a notice that said come to the IEP at this meeting date, time, place – they were not interested in our calendars.  And then we SHARED the notice with the agency.  And they sat on it for  10 days and then yesterday frantic, crazy, stupidness.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it is my deepest fear that I will have to be a foster parent for next 8 years….I just can’t.  Of course I will, but it will leave me a broken, hollowed out shell of a person.  And I don’t think that kind bulls#%t non-permanency would be good for Blitzen either. Reunify or TPR – after 6+ years, simply no excuse for any other course of action.

GRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!

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So we got our pjs on early, crawled into bed to play go fish and read. And then Blitzen fell asleep early.  Andrew came home and teased me – that was like your perfect night, he said.  You are going to start rooting for sore throats!

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Go Fish

We played, without incident, as a family. 2 rounds.  Everyone (especially me) appreciated it in the moment.

There are people out there going, ‘So?!?’ Well, it was a small thing but a big deal.  We have not had many moments of calm enjoyment lately and I  am attempting to celebrate each and every one.

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