Sunday, October 19, 2014

Social Media's Ugly Side

If your child has his own cell phone, you might want to consider placing some mobile safeguards on it.  We attended an eye-opening workshop yesterday for our foster care continuing hours.

The first part of the workshop consisted of discussing social media sites, identifying those that allow for anonymous user names.  I will include those sites as well as the mobile safeguards.  Now that kids have their own cell phones, the world is at their fingertips.  Predators and inappropriate sites/apps abound.  Know your kids' passwords! They are NOT responsible enough to have complete privacy.

Take your child's phone from them at bedtime.  Return it in the morning.

The second part of the workshop presented issues with video games.  Educational ones are great.  PC online games, consoles, and mobile gaming can be extremely disturbing.  Because many people have their own cell phones or tablets these days, mobile gaming is on the rise.  In fact, the number of women over 50 has surpassed the number of teenage boys who play mobile games! (Of course they don't play the SAME games as teenage boys.)

Tips for connecting online

Social Media Sites to Watch For

Social Media Sites that allow anonymous user names
Whisper App

Mobile Safeguards for your child's phone

MamaBear (Android, iOS) - FREE
All-in-one mobile parental controll app that allows you to locate a child through a smartphone, keep tabs on social media activity, and find out when your kid has been driving over the speed limit.  Location tracking can tell you where your child is, as well as provide arrival and departure alerts from locations such as school or home.  The social media monitor can be set to notify you when your child adds new contacts, uses restricted words or uploads photos or tags.

Norton Family (Android, iOS) - FREE trial
A parental controls app that allows parents to moinitor their children's online activity.  The app monitors internet use, allowing parents to see which websites kids are attempting to visit.  The app also automatically blocks access to inappropriate sites (with optional email notifications to parents). A premium paid tier unlocks more features.

Kids Place (Android) - FREE
Sometimes, you just want to lend your device to your younger children without putting your apps, data, and settings at risk.  Kids Place is a custom app launcher that creates a customized sandbox environment for your kids to play in, filled with the apps of your choice. In addition to allowing you to filter accessible apps, Kids Place also prevents installations of new apps and blocks both in-app purchases and Google Play access. A timer feature lets you limit use, with the app locking after a set time. Multiple profile support lets parents create custom environments for different users. Exiting Kids Place (as well as changing settings) is blocked with a PIN.

McGruff Safeguard (iOS) - FREE

mSpy Parental Control (iOS) - $49 and up
Blocks calls, tracks call history, track GPS location, record surroundings, read SMS and instant messages, blocks websites and apps, get access to photos & videos

My Mobile Watchguard (Andriod, iOS) - $4.95/month
Offers users with a series of powerful parental controls that allow mom and dad to see phone call logs, read text messages on their childrens' phones, set web blocking and time blocking, remotely block and grant access to apps, as well as find out where your child is through GPS. No stealth mode, so your kid is aware that they are being watched.

Net Nanny (Android) - $19.99/year
A simple control app for your child's Android device, letting you be as conservative or liberal with your content blocking as you like.

McAfee Family Protection - $19.99/year
Choose from four age profiles that each block websites in up to 35 categories.

eBlaster Mobile - $69.95
This stealthily monitors everything your child does on his device.  From a remote Web administrative console you can see who your child texts or calls, and you can see his browsing history, too. Parents can also define a "virtual fence" and if your child steps out of these boundaries, you'll receive an alert.

WebWatcher  (Android, iOS) - $99.95

iKeyMonitor (iOS, Android) - FREE trial
iKeyMonitor Spy App is featured as 100% undetectable iPhone Spy App and Android phone Spy App. It is an Key Logger for iPhone/iPad/iPod/Android that logs SMS, keystrokes, passwords, websites, screenshots and delivers logs to you by email or FTP.

AVG Family Safety (iOS) - FREE

Saturday, July 26, 2014

And just like that he's not my son anymore...

The handoff was uneventful yesterday (Friday) morning around 10:00.  We drove to the library like we had many times before for visitations with Baby X's aunt.  This time, a quiet, solemn air encompassed the space inside the van.  The only one who didn't feel it was Baby X.  He had no idea what was going on.

We waited at the fountains with the dolphin statue until his aunt texted to let me know she had arrived.  That's when the tears began.  She greeted me as usual with a cheek kiss and off we went to the cars to unload most of Baby X's belongings.  We still didn't know if it would be merely a weekend visit with a gradual transition or an immediate placement.  She told me in her broken English to not be sad, that I am her friend and that we could visit him any time.  Do you know how grateful I felt to hear those words?  Praise God for her kindness and willingness to keep in touch!  In the past 6 years, we've only been able to keep in touch with one foster child's family.

Later that evening after Zumba, I saw that I had a missed call and a voicemail.  Dancing and exercising had lifted my spirits, but when I listened to my social worker's voice message as I sat in the car, my heart dropped and a lump appeared in my throat once again.  The judge had decided that it would be considered a placement and that I would not need to pick him up again.

In order to have closure, my sweet neighbor Roscio helped me speak to Baby X's aunt this morning in Spanish.  We will be having a quick open house tomorrow night (Sunday) to say goodbye.  His new family will be bringing him over.  If you are reading this and would like to join us, please let me know and I will get you the details.

Our family will need to heal a bit before welcoming another little one into our home.  Maybe we'll provide respite for a couple of months.  The boys were sobbing in bed on Wednesday night as the news sank in.  I had sat down on the floor in front of their bookshelf looking for books to pack up and give to Baby X and heard Josiah sniffling on his top bunk.  I asked him why he was sniffling and he murmured, "I don't know."  A few moments later, he confessed that he thinks he's sniffling because he's sad that Baby X has to leave.  I started to pray with them and then heard sobs coming from Jadon in the bottom bunk.  Their tender hearts are so broken.

Baby X will always be my son of my heart.  We have other heart daughters and sons out there who we may never see again this side of heaven.  I pray that they will know Jesus one day, repent, realize that He is the only giver of true life, and live for Him with joy all of their days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Official news: our Baby X will be leaving...

But we don't know when exactly.  Our social worker called this afternoon to inform us that his aunt has been approved to take him.  Tentatively, he will spend the weekend with her.  There is a court hearing this Friday morning, after which we should receive a clearer picture of what will happen - if he will transition immediately or gradually.  And there is the slight chance that he might stay longer.

So how do I feel?  SO, SO SAD.  Ok the floodgates have opened and the tears are freely flowing out now.  Yet I am happy he is going to be with his family - his tia, tio, prima, and primo.

"The Lord gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21

God gives us our foster children to love for an indefinite amount of time.  Days, weeks, even years.  During that time, He keeps changing our hearts to say yes in all sorts of situations.

Yes to foster care instead of adopting from China.
Yes to a teenager instead of a baby or toddler.
Yes to cross-cultural adoption instead of just fostering.

Each time we don't know where it will lead, but God allowed us to experience depths of His love that we never would have known had we not loved and parented these precious children.  We've grown so much, made a gazillion mistakes, and will make a gazillion more mistakes in the future.

Baby X came to us a week out of the hospital and now he is 19 months old.  Seeing all those baby and toddler milestones really imprints this little life even more into our hearts.  He knows a few signs - more, all done, and please.  It's so much fun because he is really wanting to communicate these days.

It's a good time for Baby X to transition since his language skills are still lacking.  He'll learn a new language - Spanish - and will hopefully become fluent.

More later...

Monday, June 2, 2014


Woo hoo!  I am resurrecting my blog tonight.  The last you heard, I was completely heartbroken at the end of 2012.

Little did we know, about a month after our teenage foster daughter left, a precious little baby boy was born 3 months premature in Los Angeles.  As I sobbed daily in grief, feeling the emptiness of our daughter being gone, God was preparing a tiny new life to join us in April of 2013.  I felt like an utter failure as a parent, but God would soon build me up again.

I met him on Friday, April 5th at another foster home for an initial meeting.  Baby X had been there for a week, straight from the hospital.  The couple was unable to care for him any longer, so Olive Crest called us to see if we would take him in for about a month or two.  On Monday, April 8th, I drove over to the house, collected his few belongings, buckled him into the car seat and brought him home.

Fear kept us from considering adoption for Baby X.  The original goal was reunification and we didn't have to face that first.  Then January rolled around with a court hearing after 9 months of loving him as our own, seeing all of his little milestones.  God changed our hearts through many of your prayers and we officially became fost-adopt parents for Baby X.

Fear of potential teenage identity crisis (he is Mexican and we are Chinese), fear of our extended family members not accepting him as part of our family, and fear that he would one day resent us for adopting him kept us far, far away from the idea of cross-cultural adoption.  Now, we embrace it.  God extended His grace to call Gentiles as His own through Christ.  How can we not do the same?  His perfect love casts out fear.

BUT it's just not that easy.  He is still on track for reunification with his extended family members.  Even though we said yes, it's still a maybe.  Our social worker came to visit a couple of days ago and tears welled up in my eyes for the first time, thinking that Baby X might leave us one day soon.  So for now, we continue to love him deeply, yet hold him loosely.  Here is Baby X with his tia and prima.  They love him, too.