The Miss New York Pageant

This week I had the amazing opportunity to compete at the Miss New York State Pageant as Miss Thousand Islands. Not only was this a chance for me to enlighten others about the foster care system and inspire them with stories of my experiences, but it also allowed me to establish relationships with 28 incredible women throughout the state. These women all have strong convictions, determination, and a desire to make a change through their personal platforms. They make me so proud to be involved with the Miss American Organization and inspire me to be the best representation of myself that I can.

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Out of these remarkable women, I was humbled and honored to be selected into the top 11 finalists. This feat would not have been possible if it were not for the support that I received from my family and friends along the way. Their encouragement throughout every event in my life is what keeps me motivated and excited about what the future brings. I am so grateful to those who made it to the pageant to cheer me on. Hearing your applause and seeing your smiling faces in the audience gave me the confidence that I needed to shine onstage. I am also thankful for the numerous texts, comments, and messages with words of encouragement from those who were with me in spirit. I am blessed to have such extraordinary people surrounding me!

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Allie

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Cooperative Efforts

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to sit down for dinner with a new friend that found me through my social media posts about foster parenting. She has recently developed a passion for creating a support group for current and potential foster parents, and contacted me for assistance with this venture. She is not yet a certified foster parent, but plans to begin the process next month.

I’ve spoken with numerous individuals in the past about their interests in fostering and am always excited to offer advice, stories, and encouragement. My primary focus as a foster parent will always be on the betterment of the children within the system, but I understand that this goal will be best accomplished through a cooperative effort with other foster parents. We all may have different backgrounds, values, or explanations behind our decision to foster, but the connection that we have through our passion of helping children supersedes those differences. Because of this, I wholeheartedly support her efforts to develop this group.

Additionally, I can attest to the benefits of having encouragement from other foster parents while going through difficulties associated with caring for foster children. Although I can look to my Mom and Dad as a resource along with other adults in my life that have parented biological children, it’s challenging for them to offer advice to me for the behaviors that are often exhibited by foster children. For example, how do I console a foster child who cries out for hours at bedtime because they are scared of the new bed, new home, and new people that have been forced upon them? How do I hold back the tears when my foster child casually tells me a horrific story from their past on our way to the grocery store? What am I to do when I’m handed seven bottles of medication to administer to my 10-year-old foster child when I don’t agree with choice to medicate for their “disorder”?

These examples touch on some of the experiences we may have with our foster children, but they don’t even begin to address the emotions we experience when we have to let our children go. Two weeks ago when my Sweet Pea went back to her mom and my little boy went back to his dad, I was beside myself. I trusted that they were in good hands, but I still felt incredibly lonely and lost without their presence. My friends and family didn’t hesitate to offer me love and reassurance, but the pain would not subside.

However, a routine phone call at work from a woman seeking an apartment for her daughter turned out to be exactly what I needed to help me cope. Through our conversation, I learned that her daughter was formerly a foster placement that had resulted in an adoption. She had fostered over eighty children throughout the past twenty years and had adopted several of those placements. Her enlightening words, inspiration, and empathy for my situation brought me to tears. God had clearly put her in my path to redirect my focus and remind me of my mission.

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I hope that I am able to offer the comfort in conversation that this woman provided me during my interactions with current and potential foster parents. I’m really looking forward to developing this support group with my friend and would encourage you, or anyone you may know, to contact me if you have an interest in joining us!

Allie

Resilience

My life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately, to say the least.

Recently, I was asked to take a little boy into my care for an indefinite amount of time. Although my professional life has been excessively demanding lately, I was excited for the opportunity to have another child in my life. Sweet Pea’s visits with her mom have been increasing over the past few months, so I felt that I was ready to welcome another child into my home.

This adorable little boy was quite the challenge, but one I willingly accepted. He had a very difficult time effectively communicating so there were some initial frustrations, but we quickly began to understand each other. Unlike when a child is placed with a foster parent on respite (very short-term care, typically a weekend), it was expected that this little guy was going to be with me for some time. Because of that, I was looking forward to spending an extended amount of time with him to continue to make progress on his speech and basic skills that were not developed appropriately for his age.

Then completely out of left field, I received a message from his case worker on Monday preparing me to say goodbye to him that same afternoon. It had been determined that he would be returned to his biological father who does not live in the area.

Insert uncontrollable sobbing.

As I began packing up his belongings, I started to convince myself that I was not cut out for this. My mission as a foster parent is to positively affect a child’s life and develop a relationship with their parents so that the reunification becomes seamless. How was I supposed to do that when I was sending this child to someone I had never met? How was I supposed to trust that he was going to be properly cared for when I had yet to establish a positive rapport with his father?

I looked over my car filled with the toys that we played with together, the books that I read him, the stuffed animals that he slept with at night, and felt the heaviest weight of resentment fall onto me. I resented the judge for making this decision, I resented the case workers for allowing it (although I know it’s not their choice), and I resented the system for creating situations like this.

I pulled into the parking lot at DSS to say goodbye to my little buddy and caught a glimpse of his father. Although I had never seen him before, I knew exactly who he was based off from some striking characteristics that the case worker had used to describe him.

My judgmental instincts took over and I cringed at the thought of this child going back to him. His disheveled appearance, excessive tattoos, and tough demeanor made me assume he was incapable of being a successful parent. I ignored him as I walked by and waited inside DSS for his child and case worker to arrive. Shortly after, he walked in and waited near me. I avoided his eyes so he couldn’t see my tears and I attempted to pull myself together.

As I stood there feeling sorry for myself and wondering why God was testing me in this way, a thought occurred to me: I need to give him the ability to contact me. Without hesitation, I turned to the desk behind me and wrote down my name and phone number.

Hiding my intimidation, I approached the man that stood before me – a man whose path I never would have crossed had it not been for his little boy; a man I had written off as incapable simply because of his appearance; a man that I knew nothing about. I introduced myself and gave him the note. When our eyes met, I sensed a kindness that I never would’ve expected.

The gratitude that he then expressed for the concern that I had for his child brought me back to tears. He wrote down his name and number, vowing to keep in touch. I was ashamed for the judgement that I had initially passed.

Since that day, we have spoken regularly and I have been thrilled to hear how well the transition is going. I miss the little guy like crazy, but it’s clear to me that he is where he is meant to be.

Similarly, Sweet Pea’s mom was granted full-time care over our little girl on Tuesday. It breaks my heart to not brush my teeth next to her in the mornings, to not hear her sweet voice throughout my house, and to not get her butterfly kisses when I tuck her into bed at night, but I know she is where she is meant to be.

I am heavy-hearted over the amount of loss that I have experienced this week and lonely beyond belief. What is keeping me going is my faith in God’s plan for who he decides to put in my life next. It is clear to me that those who are no longer in my life have made room for someone who needs me more.

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Allie

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve always had an immense appreciation for my Mom’s love and devotion to our family, but that appreciation has been amplified since I took on the role of a mother.

From the time a mother hears the pitter patter of her children’s feet in the morning to the time she lays her head down after the day is complete, her every waking moment is spent caring for her child. She cares about the amount of sleep they had last night, the clothes that they put on, their hygiene, what they eat, their education, their extracurricular activities… the list goes on and on.

She transports them where they need to be, but worries for their well-being when she’s not around. All the while, keeping up with anything else that needs to be accomplished in her busy life.

Attempting to recognize the demands of a being a mom creates an absolutely exhaustive list that seems never ending. No matter what her mood, how little sleep she had, or how stressed she might be, she has a child counting on her whose needs far supersede her own.

There are no days off from motherhood; it is a lifelong commitment

Although that statement might seem obvious to most, once you have taken on the role of motherhood it becomes clear that not everyone is cut out for the job. Some may find it easy to create life, but not all will be able to sustain, enrich, and encourage that life on their own accord. It requires being selfless, patient, and persistent with a constant supply of unconditional love.

I’m still learning how to live up to these expectations of motherhood and believe that I have a long way to go, but I don’t have to look far for inspiration. I am truly blessed to have a mother that exceeds the role in every aspect. She is my loyal fan, my stability, and my guide. She is my best friend. Without her influence on my life, not only would I be a different person but I wouldn’t have the ambition to be a devoted mom to my foster children.

I empathize for those who didn’t have as influential of a mother in their lives and hope that with what I’ve learned from my Mom, I can inspire them to be better parents.

Thank you for all that you do, Mom. I love you!

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Happy Mother’s Day to all…

Allie

A Lesson Learned

Throughout the time that I’ve been working with Sweet Pea and her mom on their reunification, I have been frustrated on multiple occasions with her mom’s tolerance to inappropriate behaviors. I have struggled to curve Sweet Pea of her stubborn and demanding nature by encouraging her to ask politely for things, respect adults, and understand that she will not always get her way. Although we have made a lot of progress in this plight, I see regression when her mom allows her to manipulate the situation and gain control.

I will be the first to admit that it is much easier to succumb to Sweet Pea’s demands than it is to deal with the inevitable tantrum that follows when she is told “no”, but I grin and bear it so that she knows who has authority in the situation. It’s crucial to keep this message consistent, whether it be through me or her mom, so that the tantrums subside and we maintain control.

With this being said, I did have a moment of realization a few weeks ago while Sweet Pea’s mom was spending some time with us…

When I ended the relationship with my ex, my beloved dog, Boone, stayed with him. I was heartbroken about this, but content with being granted some visitations. The last visitation happened to be when Sweet Pea’s mom was with us.

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During this visit, I was quickly reminded of one of Boone’s bad habits: he loves to eat cat food! I picked up an empty cat bowl and turned to Boone – he immediately put his head down and tucked his tail between his legs. But instead of reprimanding him, I put the bowl down and proceeded to give him hugs and kisses. I turned to Sweet Pea’s mom and said that I just couldn’t be mad at him because I had missed him so much.

Aha.

If I was that lenient with my dog whom I hadn’t been seeing regularly, how would I treat my child if I had not seen them in weeks? Months? Years? I’m certain that I would try to give them the world to make up for all the lost time.

Sweet Pea’s mom is doing her best to become a better parent. I am incredibly proud of her for the progress she has made, even despite a few weak moments. God gave me this lesson to remind me of that…and to encourage me to have some patience!

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Lots of love…

Allie

A Year of Change

Since my last post over two months ago, my life has changed in more ways than I ever could have imagined. In fact, I think the reason I have been avoiding writing is because anytime I think about how different my life is, a sense of fear overwhelms me… Did I make the right choices? I am not one to doubt that everything happens for a reason, but as I put all of my thoughts into words, the truth really hits me.

In October, I made the decision to leave an engagement with a man that I had been involved with for five years. As much as I loved and cared for him, I had finally recognized that in order to salvage our relationship I would be required to give up some of the most important goals in my life and continue to lose sense of who I am. Our fundamental differences were outstanding, and so was our ignorance. Instead of addressing these differences throughout our relationship, we chose to overlook them and brush them aside.

As the reality of marriage crept closer and closer, I realized that a decision had to made: do I take the easy way out and continue an unhappy relationship to avoid the stress, insecurity, and embarrassment that would come with ending it? Or do I prepare myself to deal with the consequences and bite the bullet?

While facing this decision, Sweet Pea weighed heavily on my mind. What kind of an impact would this have on her life? Would this interfere with the stability and structure that had made her grow so much during our time together?

But as I contemplated that thought, I realized something… Sweet Pea’s sense of security has nothing to do with the person I am in a relationship with or even the house we live in – it is based off from her trust in me. She knows that no matter who we are with, where we live, or what we are doing, I will keep her safe.

It was at that point that I realized what needed to be done and without another thought, I did it.

Since that decision, many amazing things have happened:

  •  I bought a house – Yes, a house!

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  • Sweet Pea changed school districts – I was nervous about how this would impact her, but I’m happy to say that she has adjusted incredibly well! She had some serious behavioral issues at her old school, particularly with socializing, that have improved immensely at her new school. I think a fresh start was exactly what she needed.
  • For my professional work and commitment to community involvement, I was accepted into NNY Business Magazine’s 20 Under 40 Class of 2014! You can read the article here.
  • I bought another house! Being involved with real estate the past few years has made me realize how much I love the industry. Because of this, one of the goals in my life is to create my own real estate empire. So why not get started now? I purchased a duplex that is right next door to my single family home.
  • Sweet Pea and I are spending more time with her mom – as mentioned in previous posts, it is my priority as Sweet Pea’s foster parent to help her reunite with her mom, but with a happier and healthier relationship. By spending more time with Sweet Pea and I, her mom has been able to see what works for us and will hopefully use those methods moving forward. We have developed a great friendship which assures me that I will be part of Sweet Pea’s life well after she leaves my care.
  • I rescued a dog – meet Bear!

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  • I am honored to have become a Board Member of The Resolution Center of Jefferson and Lewis County – this opportunity is one that I am so excited about because it will propel my ability to positively influence the lives of children in our area. I look forward to writing more about my involvement with this organization in future blog posts.

Along with all these great things that have happened, there have been a few moments that stung a little:

  • I received an email from Kleinfeld Bridal letting me know that my wedding dress had arrived. Ouch!
  • On January 10th (our original wedding date), I received a call from the Ice Farm asking where they should deliver my wedding ice sculptures…apparently I forgot to cancel them. Double ouch! However, I made the most out of it by featuring the sculptures at a house warming party the following weekend!

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  • After over three years of successful business ownership at Dance Alley, my retail dance wear store, I have decided to close my business. Although I have loved being a business owner, I’m realizing that my passion is with real estate investment. I have learned so many valuable lessons and have had many amazing opportunities presented to me through my store, but it’s time to shift my focus to a different avenue.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year already, but I’m so optimistic about what the future holds for me. I have felt myself grow and mature more in these past four months than I can recall in my 22 years of life. The “big girl” choices keep coming my way, but I’m ready for them!

Every relationship, experience, and event in my life is an opportunity to learn and become a better person. I’ve overcome my fear of the what ifs by putting the past behind me and focusing on the blessings that continue to come my way.

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Now that we’ve caught up on everything, I look forward to filling you in more frequently on my exciting adventures with Sweet Pea!

Love always,

❤ Allie

Thoughts and Updates

I have been following a heartbreaking story about a precious little girl that passed away recently due to carbon monoxide poisoning from an improperly used generator in the basement of her father’s home in Salina, New York. Although I’ve always been affected by news stories like this that show how severe the impact of ignorant adults can be on children, it hits even closer to home given my exposure to the foster care system.

You can read the latest article regarding the story here, but in summary: the 6-year-old girl in this tragedy, Gabriella, was permitted to stay with her father, a convicted felon with a reckless past, every other weekend throughout the school year and two nights a week during the summertime. Despite her father’s questionable history that included a prison sentence from two felony drug convictions, multiple arrests stemming from weapons, drug and assault charges, it was determined in family court that he was “suitable” to care for her because there was no proof of neglect or abuse. Even through several attempts by her mother to cease these visits because of his dangerous lifestyle, he was still awarded these weekends with Gabriella. During the visit that ultimately ended Gabriella’s life, she was left in the care of her 14-year-old half-brother while her father made a trip to a casino. Although her father apparently had the funds to support this trip, he could not afford utility bills and was consequently running a generator in the basement of the home which churned carbon monoxide throughout the house.

There are obviously many revolting factors to this story, but what I can’t comprehend is why her father was granted the right of visitation in the first place.

I understand that people make mistakes and am a firm believer that change is possible, but there is a key factor that is necessary to make that happen: an individual must want to change. If the drive, desire, and ambition are not there, it will never happen. If one does not show this willingness to modify their lifestyle, they do not deserve to have the ability to influence an innocent child.

This tragedy is a reminder to me to appreciate the progress that is made when an individual is motivated to become a better parent. In Sweet Pea’s case, I am incredibly impressed with the efforts that I am seeing on her Mom’s behalf to turn things around. She has recognized her weaknesses, made the appropriate corrections, and is proving to everyone that she is  capable of being a fantastic mom. When the timing is right, I have confidence that she will take on the job with more skill, responsibility and tact than she did the first time around. And this time, she will have a support system from my family that will never fail.

I am beyond blessed to say that recent developments made in the case have granted me the ability to be an integral part of this reunification by continuing to care for Sweet Pea until her Mom is fully ready to care for her again. It is an absolutely beautiful, humbling and heartwarming experience to have this opportunity. Although I had attempted to prepare myself for a situation much different than this that I thought to be inevitable, God’s guidance throughout the past few weeks has once again proven that He has a path predetermined for me. I will continue to trust in His plan for me and be thankful for this gift in my life.

Yesterday was a very happy day for this wonderful news… and also because it was Sweet Pea’s birthday! Fun festivities and memory making are sure to fill this holiday week.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Allie