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Archive for October, 2014

The Edge of the Cliff

October 24th, 2014 at 07:09 am

We've walked over it. Our current credit card debt is $4,361.46, at 19.99% int. It’s been building since the end of July. Right now I’m not motivated to get this turned around. I've blogged several times about the situation with our family, but as a reminder, we adopted two boys from foster care about three years ago. The older boy (A) has classic autism. The younger boy (E) has a milder form of autism, but is also affected by fetal alcohol syndrome and has cerebral palsy. To say that they are a challenge to raise puts it mildly. They are extremely difficult to raise, and we are worn out.

Of course, we've gone into credit card debt before, when the boys weren't a factor. So, maybe I’m making excuses, or passing blame. I don’t know. Our Achilles heel has always been eating out. Before we had kids, and we were both working, we were “too busy” to eat in, so we ate out. When we had only one child, and she was three, and we were getting the hang of parenting her, we still ate out. When we had two neuro-typical kids, and they were both out of the toddler age, and getting reasonably easy to parent, we ate out.
Now with four kids, the trend continues. Let me tell you about last night. I left work, and rushed the 20 miles to our home town, and met DW at the rehabilitation center to take E to physical therapy for his cerebral palsy. DW had just picked both boys up from the autism center which is in a town 20 miles in the opposite direction from where I work. E has twice weekly PT. And, last night’s session went as well as any of his sessions have ever gone. He was relatively cooperative for most of it, and we were both happy when we left.

DW had taken the other three kids to a Halloween party that was put on by the local AAUW chapter. We decided that we would try E at the party. That was a big mistake. I should have just taken him home. His alcohol affected brain does not allow him to enjoy social situations like other four year olds. He acts like an 18 month old in a four year old body. There were tables with treats and toys, and he wanted all of them. When we try to disallow his behavior he throws an absolute screaming fit. So, I carried him out, and back to my pick up, and before I went home, I spent $11 on a pizza, some bread sticks and a 20 oz. Mountain Dew.

That’s just one example of things that happen much too often. DW and I are always exhausted, her physically, and me mentally.

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't acknowledge that A’s has made vast improvements, although there are times when the autism completely overpowers him, and he regresses back to the exact behaviors as when he first came to our house. But, those times are becoming less frequent. And it seems as if E takes every single inch that A gives us.

The other side of this equation is our girls. Our wonderfully behaved, mature beyond their years, put up with much more than should be expected of them girls. We don’t buy them stuff, but we do have them involved in a lot of activities. We try to get them out of the house, so they can enjoy life. And those activities cost money, even if it is just gas for travel.
We do get respite care for our boys through our County behavioral health system. It amounts to about four hours per week. There are four people in a twenty mile radius who have gone through the training to be accepted as respite care providers, three of them are my mother, father, and sister. The other is the mother of another special needs child. Her husband is currently incarcerated for multiple DWI convictions. Respite care income seems to be an important part of her cash flow. We call her on a very last choice basis. She’s watched the boys three times in the past three months.

One of our problems with this respite care is that DW and I are too forward thinking. We are aware of the total number of hours allocated to us, and we meter them out accordingly. If the average comes out to 4.22 hours per week, that’s what we use. It has come to our attention that most other people who receive respite care, or similar services through behavioral health, use hours up with reckless abandon, then cry and scream at their case worker that they need more hours. So, we’re being much less calculating about the respite hours, and when they run out, we’ll see what happens. The bottom line, of course, is that my folks will watch the boys with our without respite payment, unless it’s January or February, when they’re in Florida.

We do have a neighbor girl who is absolutely great with the boys, and she is almost always willing to help us out, but, of course we pay for her directly. She’s not yet 18, so she’s not eligible to provide respite care.

I’ll go back to the bigger picture. We are broke. We have gone back into credit card debt. And, as much as it may sound like I’m trying to place all the blame on our current family situation, I completely recognize that we got ourselves into the same problem before any of our children were born.

19.99% int. is a high rate. At the current balance, it’s costing around $72 per month. So, the first and most obvious choice is to look for a low or no transfer cost card with a 0.0% introductory rate. In my current state of mind, I think that’s a bad idea. It will just give me another card to charge up.
DW is expecting a $2,000 freelance check sometime in the next couple of weeks, and certainly a lot of that payment can go toward debt reduction, and she’ll be getting four more of those checks during the next 12 months, so, I honestly expect that the card will be all paid off within six months. But, that doesn't change the fact that we've slipped back into the same behaviors that put us 24K in the hole five years ago.

My ability to concentrate on this subject any longer has just slipped away, so it’s time to publish. Thanks for reading.

I will add one more thought. Someone my offer the very sound advice that DW and I get some counseling. Been there, done that. And, we both found the counseling sessions to be very helpful. The nearest counselor is 20 miles away, in the same town where we take the boys for their autism center, and a couple other things. We have to line up a baby sitter for at least two hours, and really, when we have to line up a baby sitter, we'd really rather do something more fun.