May 29, 2014

Becoming a Foster Parent in Los Angeles County : What To Expect

My husband and I recently embarked on a new adventure and became certified Foster parents in Los Angeles County.  To say there is a huge need for good foster families in LA is a vast understatement and there are a couple of different ways to go about becoming foster parents here. You can either go directly through the county or choose a Foster Family Agency (FFA).  Even though we have a fantastic agency by our side and completed very informative training, upon getting our first child we had a lot of questions.  So I thought I would share some tips on what to expect, in hopes that I can help other families when they are just starting out.

*How long did it take you to get certified?
We started the process at the end of September, 2013 and we received our certification on February 3rd, 2014. Our advice to anyone who is beginning this process is to get your Live Scan fingerprinting  done right away. Many of the items on your foster certification to-do list are things that are in your control and are pretty easy to get done, but the background checks take an unpredictable amount of time.  We waited a couple weeks after we started our training to get ours done and it ended up taking a couple of months for the background checks to clear the system. 

*How long did it take you to get your first placement call?
We received our first placement call two days after we were certified by our agency. We are doing infants and we were told that because of the immense need, we would get a child very quickly. Even though the two days between getting certified and getting that first call felt like an eternity, it really was quick.

*What happened when your first baby arrived? 
After hearing from our agency in the late afternoon and accepting the placement, we heard from the County Social Worker (CSW) involved in baby J's case.  She told us he would be arriving within the next couple of hours. We then got a call from a transport worker from the county, to let us know that she was on her way. Our house is a little bit hard to find so we had multiple calls from her and ended up meeting her when she pulled up to the sidewalk in front of our place around 9:30pm.  She had the baby, a large bag of clothing and hospital blankets, and an open package of diapers.  She brought everything into our house and went upstairs to see where the baby would be sleeping. She was very encouraging and nice to us and had us sign some papers stating that we received the baby.  She left about 15 minutes after she arrived.

*How long did it take you to hear from the birth parents?
We received a call from mom on our google phone number the very next morning after getting baby J.  She really wanted to see him and asked us to set something up. We contacted our agency social worker who then arranged for us to have a visit at the agency a few days later. Though we definitely were surprised to hear from her so soon, it was a good reality check for us and helped us get right into foster parenting mode.

*Were there any special medical checkups required after you got the baby?
LA County has a system in place in which all foster children go to a centralized medical center called The Hub to get their first checkup and any tests they might need.  The hospital called us directly to let us know when J's appointment would be.  The Doctors there are great and very thorough.  They are open to any questions you might have about anything.  We also had already taken J to visit a pediatrician in our area. You are required to get a baby to the Dr. within 72 hours of placement, but the appointment at The Hub was more "official". 

*How long did it take for a visit from your Social Worker?
Since we are certified through a Foster Family Agency (FFA) our agency social worker showed up at our house the next day after we got J.  She asked us questions about how he seemed to be doing, how much he was eating, how we were doing, etc.  She's very sweet and reassured us that we were doing a good job. She also went through some paperwork with us and gave us some tips on keeping track of the clothing inventory, etc.  As far as the County goes, our County Social Worker (CSW) came for a visit about 3 weeks after we got J. She too was very encouraging and spent quite a while at our house discussing things.  We have since been assigned a new CSW which I've heard is pretty common.

*Who else visited your house?
We had visits from two people from the MAT team.  They called us to let us know they would be coming the next day to assess J.  We weren't sure what this was all about so I did some quick research and found out that in LA County there exists something called the "Multidisciplinary Assessment Team". It's a collaborative effort between DCFS, the Department of Mental Health, and other community providers.  The MAT assessment is designed to make sure that any kids in foster care are having their needs met. They deal with all facets of life including medical and mental health, development, and education and recommend special services based on their findings.  They ended up coming to our house twice. Once they finished their assessment, a meeting was held at DCFS with Mom and Dad, the County Social Worker, the MAT team and us.  The assessment was presented to all parties involved and the meeting itself took about 90 minutes.

*What are some things I can do as I wait and prepare to become a Foster Parent?
If you're doing infants, stock up on a few different sizes of diapers, lots of wipes, some PJ's, onesies, and outfits in a few different sizes, and many burp cloths.  Have a couple different kinds of pacifiers on hand, and a couple different types of bottles. We have found the Avent Naturals bottles to be great- especially when you get a baby who has been used to breastfeeding.  Spend some time making their room look peaceful, inviting and fun. If you're doing slightly older children, have special toys on hand including things like Pillow Pets that will be a comfort to a young child. Stock up on kid friendly foods and age appropriate plates and cups. No matter what age you are doing, arrange for some friends or family to be on call to run out for things you might need and to bring food.  (Especially the part about bringing food).  Even though you didn't give birth to this child, taking a new child into your home is a very similar experience and people showing up at your door with casseroles will be an extremely welcome sight. ;)

May 23, 2014

Reviewing "One God, One Plan, One Life" Teen devotional

 "One God, One Plan, One Life" is a one year devotional for teenagers written by Max Lucado.  Each page is dated to keep the reader on track and the entire devotional for the day fits on that page. (It's very doable for the attention span of teenagers these days.)  At the top of the page is a short Bible verse. Underneath that, there's a heading describing the theme of the day. Some examples of these themes are "A Changed Heart",  "Spread the Good News" and "Honor Your Parents".  There are a few paragraphs written about each theme and then "One More Thought" at the bottom of the page to get the reader thinking deeper, or to reinforce the point that is being made.
I am a fan of this devotional and think it would be a great gift to give to the teens in your life. It would also make a great graduation present for a Middle school or High School graduate.  The book is made with very high quality paper, printed in fun colors and has a really nice weight to it. For some reason the heavy weight of certain devotional books attract me , especially if I'm giving it as a gift. It feels substantial.  There's an orange ribbon that will keep your place in the book so that's also a nice added touch.   This is not in any way to ignore the high quality of what's written inside the book, but the name Max Lucado pretty much speaks for itself.   This book is designed to be that ten or fifteen minutes at the start or end of the day, for your teen to take some quiet time with God. It's not incredibly complex, but that's not what it's meant to be.  It's thoughtfully put together and very well made.  

Here's a short description from the Publisher:
"One of America’s favorite pastors, Max Lucado offers his first 365 devotional for teens, encouraging them to trust God and His perfect plan for their lives.
Life is hard, and today’s teens could use daily guidance and reassurance that God is with them, through it all and despite it all. In One God, One Plan, One Life, bestselling author Max Lucado offers teens an accessible way to connect with their Lord. Daily devotions address such topics as faith and obedience but also offer wisdom on topics that teens battle, such as purity, bullying, alcohol and drug use, and self-image. Each day includes a short devotion and accompanying scripture as well as a take-away application that will inspire and challenge teens to trust in God and His plans for them.

One God, One Plan, One Life helps teens to cut through life’s distractions and rely on the one thing that is truly important—a relationship with God."

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Booklook Bloggers/Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

May 22, 2014

Reviewing "Long Trail Home" by Vickie McDonough

"Long Trail Home" by Vickie McDonough is the third book in the Texas Trails series and I found it to be a very sweet story.  I have enjoyed all of the books in this series and although the first three are all written by different authors, they have managed to carry a unified voice throughout each book.  The characters are likeable and relatable and the author's writing style catches the reader's interest from the beginning.  Once I had a block of time to read, I flew through the book because I was so interested to find out how it ended.
There are several different themes in the book which will attract a wide array of readers. It's a Christian historical fiction novel which takes place in the American Frontier, featuring romance, adventure, hardship and hope.  Here is a short summary from the publisher:

When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his parents and fiancée again. But he soon learns that his parents are gone and the woman he loved is married.
Riley takes a job at the Wilcox School for the blind just to get by. He keeps his heart closed off but a pretty blind woman, Annie, threatens to steal it.
Through painful circumstances, Riley and Annie learn that the loving and sovereign hand of God cannot be thwarted.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the genres I listed above and is looking for a good summer read.   I would also recommend the first two books in the Texas Trails series and I'm guessing the rest of the series is just as good. Go ahead and just get them all. :)

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for this honest review.

May 4, 2014

Spring Quilt Fabric Giveaway

Have I got a treat for you! In honor of all things Spring I'm giving away two bundles of beautiful retro and mod quilt fabric to my wonderful readers.  These fun premium fabrics are from DS Quilts Collection, modkid Studio, and Juliana Horner.  Each winner will receive all 6 yards of fabric from one of the following color schemes:

The first winner chosen will receive their color choice and the second winner will receive the remaining color bundle. 

There are so many ways to enter!  (comments are now closed)

1. Leave a comment telling me what you plan to do with the fabric if you win, and which color you would prefer.  Please make sure that I have a way to contact you if you win. (either with a linked account or by leaving your email address in the comment)

2. **Share** the link to my fundraising page to help a sweet little 19-month-old named Samuel get his adoption finalized and stay with the only family he's ever known.  
Here is the link:
Each different way you share the link, please leave a comment telling me what you did, and get another entry!!!  

*Share it on Facebook! - leave a separate comment, get another entry
*Share it on Twitterleave a separate comment, get another entry
*Share it  on your blogleave a separate comment, get another entry
*Share it on Pinterestleave a separate comment, get another entry
*Print a flyer and post it somewhere will people will see it! leave a separate comment, get another entry

Here is the link again:

* This giveaway is open to anyone, in any country, within reach of the postal service. 
* You can enter up to 6 times!!  Please leave a separate comment for each entry.
* Two Winners will be chosen by random number generator 
* Entries will close on Sunday May 18th at 12pm PST

This is the little boy we are trying to help. Isn't he the cutest? Thanks in advance for participating and getting the word out! Take some time to visit the page if you want to know more about helping sweet Samuel. 
Here is the link one more time: