Termination

Yesterday the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio terminated our home as an adoptive home and have placed in jeopardy the sibling group of 5 we were supposed to bring home this Friday November 10th to be part of our forever family.

Here’s their three sentence letter:

Laprise_Termination

What we did wrong was ask questions and we see a systemic abuse of families who ask questions. On more than one occasion we’ve been told the following by staff at the Children’s Shelter.

This conversation is over

Stop asking questions was implied repeatedly

You just need to comply

Don’t stir things up

Sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut for the children’s sake.

Well, for the children’s sake, and not just these five, we want to open our mouth and speak on their behalf and all those families working to adopt and foster children who are abused by the Child Placing Agencies that are supposed to be helping them help the children.

When will they put the children’s needs first? Not until we all raise our voice in defense of the defenseless. The children have no money and no voice but ours. Will you speak up with us on their behalf?

Adoption isn’t new to us and we don’t “need” more children. We have four grown biological children and we adopted a sibling group of three kids eight years ago. It was hard but the hardest part was the lying and deception on the part of our then Child Placing Agency – Pathways. A year ago, with our three adopted children doing so well we decided to adopt more kids for no other reason than we love kids and are willing to help.

When we first went to the Children’s Shelter it was amazingly different than our previous experience. The staff was friendly and helpful, the training was excellent. When the director was fired around April 2017 everything changed BUT these agencies know that it’s hard to change agencies because you’ve already done a huge amount of paperwork to get licensed through the agency and so many of them once you’re “in” treat you extremely poorly.

Over the course of the summer while we were waiting to be matched up with a sibling group we opened our home to respite care every time the Children’s Shelter asked. I believe six kids over the summer came into our home. It was awesome for the kids we already have to experience new kids in their space and we were really glad we had that opportunity.

On Tuesday October 31st Michael and I went to a refresher course, you have to take courses regularly to keep your home license active. This refresher course is called SAMA. It is designed to teach you how to deescalate a situation with a child mainly through verbal conversation. One section teaches how to use physical force to protect yourself and the child in the event that the behavior escalates. One of the moves is called “Follow to the Ground.” During the class the instructor said if anyone didn’t feel comfortable or had issues with doing this move they didn’t have to do it. I wasn’t feeling really good, it was a refresher course that I’d already done, Michael was there to do it also and in our 30 years of parenting and working with kids I’ve never taken a kid out. We left the class that Tuesday thinking we were in complete compliance with our licensing.

On Thursday I received a phone message from Allie Hennis at the Children’s Shelter and because we were super busy getting ready for our first whole weekend with the 5 kiddos at our house I didn’t get around to calling her back. Her message didn’t indicate any urgency. If I can figure out how to post it here I will later.

On Friday morning we were so excited and after lunch my daughter Alexis (11) and son Jack (10) and I got in our giant marshmallow van and headed to HEB for some last minute items, our son Luke (18) and daughter Jessica (27) were at home getting things ready and making dinner. Michael was working from home so he could be there when we got home.

At 2:30 on Friday November  3rd, when we left HEB my daughter Alexis put up her hand to high five me and said, “We did it!” If you knew Alexis’s story of abuse before she was three and here fear of the shelter experience, you’d understand her passion for bringing these kids home to be safe. Almost immediately after that Allie Hennis called to tell us we couldn’t pick the kids up for the weekend because our home wasn’t compliant. Our lack of compliance was based solely on my not doing the one single follow to the ground move at the Tuesday class! Seriously!

When I tried to explain that the instructor didn’t say anything about not being compliant, was there a rule on how much of the class needed to be completed in order to be compliant, could I retake the course Saturday and still get the kids? She was totally uninterested in any pleas about what would be best for the children because she is in charge of compliancy and she’s read the chart and is just a box checker. No heart! Her final words were, “This conversation is over.”

I was in shock and shaking so bad when I hung up. I couldn’t get a hold of the children’s caseworker because it was late in the day and our caseworker from the Children’s Shelter, you know the place and people who were supposed to be assisting us in our adoption, had no help to offer. As I drove on toward our meeting with the children at the shelter they’re currently at, my mind was racing with, how do we get someone to hear our story at 3:30 on Friday afternoon? I called my congressman’s office and his aid got to work that day and is continuing to work on behalf of these kids. When we arrived at the shelter the staff there had all the kids stuff packed, everyone was so happy that the kids were going to come stay with us for the weekend. The kids were so happy to see us with hugs and squeals of delight.

Then I got to be the one to tell them that they couldn’t spend the weekend with us. I can’t even describe how horrible that moment was, breaking bad news but wanting so much to enjoy what time we did have with them.

We were allowed to take them for each day over the weekend but no overnights. So instead of 200 miles of driving that weekend we put in 600 miles. The kids were so awesome while we were playing at the house and the only time we had problems was when it was time to get in the van to go back to the ranch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great children’s ranch and the kids like the staff there, it’s just not home! It’s not that forever home that the people working in CPS keep telling kids they’ll get someday.

So, I’ve spent the last two days calling everyone I can think of who will help me. We still don’t have a commitment that the kids will be here forever on Friday as they’ve been promised. Yesterday Allie Hennis and Yvette Sanchez from the Children’s Shelter met with us. They offered no apology, admitted to no mistakes and in a very short meeting they simply handed us our termination letter. After speaking with DFPS I know that an agency can fire you for no reason given. So, there’s that nice thing.

I called our congressman’s office and the children’s caseworker and they were both shocked at the outcome of the meeting. The kid’s caseworker’s supervisor called the Children’s Shelter to ask if they had any concerns about the children being placed in our home or for the children’s safety in our home and they said no.

We got fired/terminated for asking to many questions and asking for clarification on their “compliance” rules. I’ve called a number of CPS workers over the last few days trying to find out what the rule is for passing the SAMA course which is required for all workers and have found only one who even knows what it is.

We’re asking for your help in raising a voice for the children in state care. We can’t bring these kids home this weekend unless the Children’s Shelter reinstates us until we can be licensed with a new agency. I wish I could convey the lack of trust these kids have in everyone around them or how much we want them to trust us, that we’ll keep our word.

Here’s what we believe will make an impact on how people are treated in the future.

Let’s keep it really simple and just state:

Please put the children first, reinstate the Laprise family!

You can call the Children’s shelter at this number 210-212-2500

Allie Hennis at 210-212-2579

Congressman Kuemple’s office 512-463-0602

Our congressman’s office has been awesome in helping us with this but we’d like them to see how many people care.

Email to the Children’s Shelter’s Public Relations Officer Anais Biera Miracle at abiera@chshel.org

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheChildrensShelter/

If you have time for a meme with our simple phrase that would be awesome.

#For the Children – I’d do that but I don’t know how

 

 

 

 

Permaculture Learning Tools for Kids

Gathering Resources

If you’re a parent and your goal is to learn more about the Permaculture practice but you’re also trying to homeschool and get all the things done in a day that goes with training and raising a family I hope you’ll join our family as we learn to combine the very adult world of Permaculture information with a fun hands on experience for children.

While I never finished Permaculture Student 1 because Matt Powers keeps on coming out with new and exciting things to use in our learning adventure, I thought I’d go ahead and post a few things we’re using as we learn more about Permaculture and how I can get through all of Matt’s great information and scale it down for my kids. Our oldest is 29 years old and he actually introduced us to the Permaculture concept a few years ago via Bill Mollison’s Permaculture handbook. We’ve been on our homeschooling journey for so very long now and this is the first time in this adventure that I’ve decided to put what I want to learn in front of my kids so that we’re learning together and it’s been amazing!

Personally I have so much to learn and the Bill Mollison book is way over my head. Quite frankly so is Matt Power’s Permaculture 2 highschool text  BUT it’s more manageable and while I’m teaching my kids I’m learning the pieces that I’ve missed along the way. So here are some tools we’re using to make this fun and scale it down for younger learners while I still get the full benefit of the deeper information.

Games

On this journey we’re using some fun resources like Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture cards.

We’ve been using these for awhile and today they started recognizing the things we have in our garden. We ate mulberries today from our dwarf mulberry tree which is doing really well after just one year. We planted it by our lemon balm since it belongs to the same guild and they like each other a lot. In the deck there is information about Mulberry trees, guilds, the famous trail blazers in Permaculture etc. Anyway, if you’re at all like me and playing cards with kids that take a long, long, long time to think about their moves gets you a bit restless, these are super fun to read outloud while the kids are thinking! Repetition builds memory and these are perfect, except I think Paul Wheaton should be in the deck even if it’s as the joker. 🙂

Something as simple as playing a game like this allows for teachable moments on math, ascending and descending order, manners and game playing etiquette along with permaculture terms and the people who began sharing their knowledge about the subject.

There are many other Permaculture games out there now and we’re trying to add that to our homeschool budget for the future.

Coloring Pages!

Another cool tool we’re using is the Erik and Lauren Ohlsen coloring book series. With the proliferation of youtube permaculture videos to watch I’ve found the more technical ones that might lose their attention will keep them listening if their hands are busy. We also try to watch them after a busy play or gardening time so they’re a bit tired. We rarely watch tv while eating but I’m finding it very helpful to watch some educational stuff during lunch now. They also can color while I’m reading aloud from the textbook. This way I know I’ll read the whole thing and they ask the best questions! I know they’re listening 🙂

It was really time consuming to search the google universe for the exact coloring page to keep them busy but with this series I can page through and find the one I think fits our theme best.

Our Garden

Lunch with things like this beautiful spinach from our garden. We added cilantro too!

There is no substitute for learning permaculture from the garden. It’s a must even if you’re doing your food growing in recycled buckets on a patio.

Reusable Montessori Resources

I’ve also made and laminated some items from the Montessori Print Shop

I’m pretty good at the animal classifications that fall under the Chordata phylum  but all the living animals haven’t ever interested me. After reading Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway I became so fascinated with the creatures in the soil and then listening to Matt Power’s talks with Dr. Elaine Ingham sparked my interest even more and I knew if I taught my kids about this I’d be sure to gain greater understanding of the soil food web happening right beneath our feet!

So here in the picture above we have the control chart, which means it’s the “answer key” that the kids begin using to learn the names of the Class, Order, Phylums, and then they’ll move to a blank graph as they learn where each living thing falls in the plant and animal classification systems. This is becoming a really great tool for looking at patterns in nature and defining what those are by bringing in bugs and leaves then talking about which group they’re in and why. It’s a treasure hunt 🙂

We use other fun things like the Good Bug/Bad Bug Montessori activity from Carrots are Orange, and gathered some bugs from our garden. Then there are fun things like this too! Where does it go in the classification system? Where does it go in the beneficial vs pest category?

AND don’t forget dirt! Lots and lots of lovely soil to plant things in like this terrarium that is teaching us about ecosystems 🙂

Story Time

There are an amazing number of new stories out there that teach kids about permaculture and have a great homeschool, family learning feel. We like:

Farmer Phil’s Permaculture

The Magic Beans

The art in this story is all done in water colors using plant based paint!  

Eric Carle

These are adorable classic stories about the garden and hard work!

Outside!

There’s no substitute for hands on learning and actually getting out and discovering the sound, sights, touch, smell and taste of the world around you but on those to wet to play, super hot sun, or freezing (50 degree) Texas days it’s great to have tools that are reusable and fun.

Then there’s this:

Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game is a cooperative game that is super fun. The goal is to go up the hill, pick two buckets of huckleberries and get back to Grandma’s house before the sunsets WITH your whole team. You’re only as fast as your slowest hiker explains this game really well. Some kids find it hard to think in terms of the group winning 🙂 

Creative people in the Permaculture space are putting out new things all the time to enhance children’s understanding of the real world around them.