Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 14, 2012

Matthew 19:14 NIV
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

December 14 has always been a time of celebration in our family - it is my birthday. This year was my 35th birthday. I was not dreading turning 35 nor did we have big plans since this weekend is filled with Christmas parties and the Nutcracker.

A few years ago, it marked the Chanukkah Storm here in Western Washington. Now it marks a day of heartbreak in our country, the day twenty families learned their precious children were killed due to violence. Having a child die tends to destroy a parent, but having a child murdered will tear several of these families apart. Many of these people will not be able to face the joy of Christmas ever again, because December will remind them of the tragic loss.

A friend stated we cannot help these children who have been welcomed by Christ. We can help children locally, nationally and globally who still suffer from abuse, hunger, poverty, homelessness, and disease through a number of organizations as a way to honor the twenty Newtown, Connecticut children. There are four distinct ways I currently help children - volunteer with the children at church, foster parenting, sponsor a child through Children International and support orphans through Embracing Orphans.

For now, I revel in Junior's laughter which has been quieted due to illness the last few days, but on December 14, he was laughing again making my heart overflow. He whistles and hums which can get annoying, but they are his sounds so I will be forever grateful he makes them. I enjoy the silliness of my 3 year niece who pranced around saying "Ho, ho, ho, Junior is not good" in a deep voice when Junior was sick. This was her answer when asked how he was feeling. Or that she has not been afraid to share her opinion since she could talk. These children are precious and only the Lord knows how long we will have them in our lives.

May we wrap our prayers around the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut and hug our own children some more.

Helpful Links:
Children's International:

Embracing Orphans:

For information about fostering and adoption from foster care visit Adopt US Kids:

The United Methodist Church:

Shelton United Methodist Church:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yo Mom

It is difficult oftentimes to get a 13 year old boy to express his feelings or reveal the inner workings of his mind. This past week has been particularly busy plus I have not been feeling well. With multiple meetings at work, Junior's weekly schedule and the start of the holiday season, this weekend was Junior's 13th birthday party - a 2-day event. It began Friday with his school's social which I volunteered at then his first marimba performance downtown for Holiday Magic then a sleepover for his birthday. Saturday morning began early with another marimba performance, baking of his birthday cake and wrapping of presents, enjoying the local Christmas Parade, family dinner and celebration of Junior's birthday. Today was church and I attended a baby shower. 

Amongst all this busyness, Junior began introducing me as "Mom", not "Jocelyne, my mom" or "Jocelyne". Sometimes it has been, "Jocelyne, the lady I live with". Friday he introduced me to his friends as "Mom". Then today he caught me my heartstrings by surprise. We had leftover letter candies that I had used for decorating his birthday cake. In blue and green letters, Junior spelled out "YO MOM" against the brown tile of the kitchen counter. Two simple words that expressed so much love and trust and attachment. 

My greatest Christmas present that I dreamed of for so many years has come to, being Mom. I will treasure this always as every mother treasures the moment of when their child first says "mama". 

While this case is not determined yet and it will break my heart to lose Junior should the Judge grant custody to his birth mother, I will have the memory of the first time of being called "Mom".

Habakkuk 2:3 RSV
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -- it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

Psalm 39:7 NRS
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Daniel 2:21b-23a NIV
"...he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors; You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you..."

"YO MOM", forever imprinted on my heart!

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'll never stop...

I was looking for a birthday card for my soon to be 13 year old. Yes, I will be the mother of a teenager in a matter of weeks. Finding a birthday card for a son I have not raised from birth, who we are not related to by blood, was a little harder than I thought. This is Junior's first birthday with us and in our family 13 is very important. I found one that wishes him the best and that we will encourage him as he matures. Finding the right words for a relationship that is still forming is important when we are still working on basic trust. We will sign the card "Mom and Dad" even though Junior still calls us by our first names. He has much larger issues to deal with as a teen in foster care than what he calls his foster-adopt parents.

"Dear Son, I'll never stop wishing the world for you. I'll never stop worrying, caring, or trying to be a soft place to land in difficult times... I'll never stop seeing, believing, or trusting in the possibilities for you... And I'll never stop being proud of what a wonderful person you are."

Only through our actions can we teach Junior that we do love him and it is more than a phrase. Being involved in church, in his school activities, helping him navigate his social life and helping him deal with the circumstances of his time in foster care allow Junior to realize we are here for him. We will encourage him, discipline him, guide him, teach him and open up his world so he can have a better understanding of the world, other people and himself. Regardless of Junior learning that we love him and encourage him, I'll never stop wishing the world for him or worrying or caring. My 99 year old grandmother still worries about her children who are in their 70s and 50s. A mother (most mothers) will always have some amount of concern and pride in the doings of her children. Junior's birth mother cares for his well being and wants him happy. She and I parent differently, but we both love Junior. If we adopt, she will not stop loving him. If she parents Junior, we will not stop loving him. We also know his birth father loves him very much, and will not stop loving him. The card I found expresses a parent's love and hopes for their child:

"I'll never stop wishing the world for you. I'll never stop worrying, caring, or trying to be a soft place to land in difficult times... I'll never stop seeing, believing, or trusting in the possibilities for you... And I'll never stop being proud of what a wonderful person you are."

Whether we raise him for six months or eight years, we are all blessed to be a family and I'll never stop loving him. While we are unsure of the future, we are "living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace".

Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pathway to Peace

We have been busy parenting and dealing with Junior's case. We have had school conferences, family photos, school fundraisers, Halloween, a court hearing, homework, doctor appointments and parental visits plus phone calls to relatives. With the day-to-day busyness I have forgotten my own appointments, even ones on my electronic calendar, that I decided one night to ask God for a clear head and peace. The serenity prayer came to mind and I found the full version. The first verse is well known, but the second verse resonated with me that night and still does, particularly the first three lines of the second verse, "Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace..." These words became my mantra right before this months hearing as we did not know what to expect. We are still moving towards termination, but there are changes to the case plan.

Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

We are planning Junior's birthday party and so many things keep coming up the weekend of his party that we have to decide as a family what we can and cannot participate in because we cannot clone ourselves easily. Some of the events Mike and I were looking forward to because they are annual traditions for us and it was going to be Junior's first time experiencing them, but birthday parties are more important.

Besides the normal foster care issues, we had to help Junior deal with school bullies. It broke my heart. Both Mike and me had to deal with being picked on and bullied in school. You want to put a protective bubble around your child or chide the bully for their insecurity. Since it was happening at school and he informed his teachers, the teachers were obligated to deal with the situation and we helped him come up with scenarios for dealing with bullies. Junior thinks he can take on the world by himself, but we are working with him that sometimes you need to get adults involved such as when bullies don't stop picking on you. The bullies had found a small "flaw" in Junior's appearance to exploit. He chipped one of his front teeth years ago; most people do not even notice it, but these classmates had and whispered taunts during class so no other student nor the teacher could hear or even notice that anything was happening. Now his tooth has been repaired and his smile is complete, though it was not repaired for our family photos, but it did not prevent him from smiling. Junior has a wonderful smile and hopefully the classmates will not find something else to tease about him. Middle and junior high students can be very cruel. Our role as parents is to guide Junior to deal with difficult people, how to stand up for himself without violence and how to retain resources when necessary.

We continue to provide a safe and stable home for Junior. He expresses his joy at living with us and being a part of our family. We love him, we have bonded and we are looking forward to permanency.

"Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace..."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Future Son"

We attended an apple pressing party today where we picked, washed, ground and pressed apples into cider on beautiful Anderson Island. The wind had a bite, but the sky remained dry most of the day and the temperature was just right for the hard work of grinding apples. I do not know how many gallons we made, but we had two grinders and presses going. Mike, Junior and I attended as guests of Megan's husband as it was his relatives who have been meeting annually for decades to make apple cider. It was a wonderful day and Junior had a terrific time and is looking forward to returning next year. The adults praised him for the hard work he put into helping with making the cider.

Since this was a family reunion and not everyone knew how everyone was related, there were introductions. Our introductions were, "Megan is married to Jeff and Jocelyne is Megan's sister. Jeff is so-so's son ...." Junior then added he was our "future son". He used this term several times today when talking to people. It is the first time I have heard him use the term; it is not a term we use when we introduce him to others and we do not use it at home. When I introduce Junior, I use his name or "my son". We are referred to as his mom and dad by just about every body even though he calls us by our first names. It has only been two months since we have formed a family, but Junior is now referring to himself as our "future son". Eventually it will be just son and we will be mom and dad. I do not expect to work on this transition until after his birth parents either relinquish or their rights are terminated. I just hope that with Junior using the term "future son" he is beginning to feel we are his permanent home, there will be no more moves, he is safe, secure, loved.

Maybe, just maybe, next year when we return to Anderson Island to help make cider, we can introduce Junior as "our son".

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Parenthood Ponderings

We are moving into a more realistic pattern of life and out of the honeymoon stage. Junior has become comfortable enough with us to mildly challenge bed times or even lose his temper at school requiring a call home from the teacher. He is learning to take responsibility for his action. During all of this I keep thinking of Junior's birth parents and how they have made choices which led to them missing so many years of his life. I am working to develop a relationship with Junior's birth parents as they should still be connected to Junior, in whatever form that takes after the adoption.

We are working with Junior to help him understand how his early childhood is connected to living with us; there are connections missing, gaps in his understanding of how each phase is connected. Then we add puberty, teen hormones and the restructuring of the brain to complicate Junior's understanding. The kid has a lot going on so it is amazing he is doing so well. He is caring, can be considerate, is gentle, friendly, helpful, funny, curious and precious.

Many people have asked me how long it will be until we finalize the adoption. I expect it will be next September, maybe later before we get to finalize and make Junior our legal son. Regardless, he is our son, we are his parents. He may not call us Mom and Dad right now, but we are parents in every sense of the word. We make sure he attends school, we feed him, we take him to appointments, we take him to church, we are silly together, we discipline him, we fix his scraped knees, we get the calls from the school when he is disciplined, we receive the praise from others who tell us Junior is a great kid, and we rejoice in the wonderful being God has created we call Junior. Yes, I have a 3-inch binder with large quantities of information on Junior I have to maintain. Yes, we have month visits with caseworkers and with birth parents. Yes, we have to report Junior's happenings to his social worker. Yes, I have several forms I have to fill out each month. We knew this was required when we became foster parents. What we did not know was who our child was going to be. It has now been two months to the day (August 18) since Junior moved in; I will be forever grateful for the leap of faith we took when we said we would meet Junior on August 10. Even if finalization is nearly a year away, we are living as a family, enjoying our time together and helping Junior develop into a young man of faith, integrity and courage. I love our son!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mom is Not Uncool

Junior and I are learning from each other. I have a wide variety of musical tastes and I tolerate most music. He was listening to his music the other day while working on his pepakura project and I was working on my computer - both of us in the living room. He was shocked I actually knew some of the songs and that I did not run screaming from the room. Granted you will not find me listening to his music on my for fun, but if he has it playing at a reasoning sound level, I will listen; it is not offensive.

Friday I volunteered at the middle school social. Most parents do not think spending 2.5 hours with kids high on sugar and listening to loud music is a fun afternoon. Most kids in 7th grade do not think it is fun to have their parent around at such an event. I worked in the snack booth where students could purchase as much candy, pizza and soda as they had money to spend so I was not around spying on Junior. I could see him occasionally dancing on the dance floor with the mob of kids or when he came through the snack line. Junior spent all his $7, but he bought candy to bring home to share with us adults (Mike, my sister and me) after dinner Friday night. The kid really enjoyed the social and even said he enjoyed having me there. For now at least I am not uncool so I will continue to volunteer where I am seen.

Pepakura and other common interests

Mike has been teaching Junior how to create a costume using pepakura. They each chose a character - Mike a Star Wars Storm Trooper and Junior a Halo Master Chief. Once the various parts are assembled in paper then Mike will cover the paper with fiberglass in his workshop. Junior has been working on assembling his paper parts - chest plate, upper arms, forearms, backpack. Mike assembled the helmet for Junior due to its complexity. They have enjoyed working on their costumes. Besides a fun project, Junior is learning spatial recognition - taking a 2-D image and constructing a 3-D model. When a mistake is made he has to problem solve as there is usually more than one way to correct the mistake.

Below is the Halo helmet in paper form.

It is exciting to see them find a common interest. They are also bike riding together now that Junior's bike has been repaired thanks to our pastor. Pastor Don repairs bicycles in his spare time, but he discovered his appointment to our church this summer does not allow for much spare time. Mike and Junior have continued to find things to do to spend time together which allows them to bond as father and son.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bonding Continued

My husband has been trying to find something that could help him bond with Junior. Mike discovered a new hobby that Junior is interested in - Pepakura. Each of them has identified costume pieces that they printed out the pattern and are working on cutting out the shapes then glue the paper pieces together. Once the parts are assembled they will cover the model with a resin then paint them so the models act as a model. In the end they will have wearable costumes. Besides learning patience, precision, spacial recognition and problem solving skills, Junior is spending quality time with Mike.

We are forming a nice family. We are incorporating his biological family into our family. The number of people that love this young man is amazing and we are all truly blessed! I pray for him, his relatives and our parenting every night. The Lord brought us together to not just provide a home for Junior, but to enrich all our lives. We are to be in relation with each other to fulfill God's commandments.

Motherhood is unbelievable! My joy overfloweth!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Signs of Bonding

Matthew 5:3-16 New Revised Standard
"'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
There are small signs Junior is bonding with us. Last week he thanked me for a good meal and gave me a hug around the shoulders. Tonight, he actually hugged Mike and me before going to bed. That was his first sign of affection towards Mike since moving in with us.

I have been working on bonding - tousling his hair, listening to him talk about his interests and childhood memories, telling him "I love him" and not expecting affection back, back scratches, and bandaging scraped up knees after a fall at the park. We are spending time as a family - meals, games, movies, walks, day hikes, the park, church and drives around the county. I pray our actions are truly influencing Junior's actions and he is actually bonding with us and not just showing affection because he thinks that is what we want. It is important for a child to deeply feel love and to be wanted. We do want him and we do love him unconditionally, no strings attached. Could we actually be cracking the shell that so many foster kids develop?

He's talkative, but he does not talk about emotions or anything beyond the surface too often. Junior has expressed a few distant emotions from more than a year ago. To decipher feelings we have to read between the lines, the unspoken feelings. We need to crack the shell open without causing Junior to build an iron wall for defence.

We begin family counseling this week just to work on family dynamics because we, as a family, are a work in progress. Being a family of three is new to all of us so each of us - myself, Mike and Junior - have something to learn about these new dynamics. Our lives are no longer just husband and wife, our actions and thoughts have to consider Junior. Junior is learning how he fits into this new family dynamic. Mike and I are learning to interact with each other as parents as well as loving partners. Then life includes school, work, church, friends and extended family members plus DSHS/foster care. We have had two really good weeks, but Wednesday marks real life - Junior starts school and I return to work full time. Then we will see how our family dynamics really function.

With the start of school, Junior is going to face some reality regarding his case. Now that he is over age 12, Washington State law declares he is old enough to receive his case file even if he is not emotionally ready to handle the details. Now, his copy of his case file has more information in it than my copy as a foster parent. We are not permitted to review his copy before giving it to him since we are only foster parents, but have been advised by the Guardian Ad Litum (GAL) and Social Worker to have our counselor review the case file with Junior. I already claim this boy as "my son" and want to protect him as much as possible. I understand he is legally permitted to view this information, but wish I could be there to comfort him while he views it for the first time. I trust our counselor wholeheartedly and she will surround Junior with love, protection and prayer when it is time to review the case file. Just from the copy I am permitted to read, I would not want a 12 year to review it without us there, but we do not have that choice. If Junior chooses to speak about that particular counseling session with us afterwards, we are willing to listen, comfort and answer questions to the best of our ability. We do not know what this new knowledge will do to his understanding of his self-identity, his self-worth, to his school performance, to his behavior at home, etc. Please pray for Junior and us during the month of September as we deal with some major issues. However he deals with the knowledge, we are here to love and accept him just as he is, just as our heavenly Father extends grace to us all.

Habakkuk 2:3 Revised Standard Version
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -- it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

Psalm 39:7 New Revised Standard
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Daniel 2:21b-23a New International Version
"...he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors; You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Settling In

Surprisingly, parenting seems to come naturally to us. As for myself, the transition has been good and natural. We moved "Junior" in on Saturday then had my sister and her 3 year old daughter over. My niece had been insistent we were getting a baby boy because all children arrive as babies according to her 3 year old mind. She was excited to meet her new cousin, but was surprised at how big he was - he's 12 years old and 5 foot 4 inches. My niece stood in front of him and stared up for awhile. She quickly warmed up to Junior when he played his clarinet so she could dance. Now every time she sees Junior she says, "That's my new cousin" with a big grin on her face.

He unpacked and got settled in his new bedroom. Saturday night we played a game of Monopoly in which Junior won fantastically.

Our 13 year old cat, Izzy who does not like strangers has quickly tolerated Junior. She will allow him to pet her and even pick her up. The first two nights, she would stare at his bedroom door after he went to sleep.

I introduced Junior to the church family Sunday morning and the church ladies gushed over him. Being an outgoing child, he was okay with the gushing. In the afternoon we walked through the neighborhood to my sister's house and played with my niece and watched a movie after Junior and Mike got the television rebooted from Saturday night's power outage. We also visited Ken from church and Junior got to climb his big tree.

Monday I spent calling caseworkers and making appointments. I made his first doctor appointment just to get a base line and a physical in case he chose to place sports this year. The child is going to have three caseworkers this year - two through DFCS (DSHS) and one through our private agency. He has a caseworker in his original county and he will have a courtesy caseworker locally who will do the monthly visits. We walked downtown and got Junior his library card; we have our priorities! We showed him the route from our house to the path down the hill then the street up to the library. We worked on basic House Rules and consequences for disobeying the rules. Junior had input on the rules on consequences. We must have worn him out because he slept more than 12 hours.

Tuesday I had to work for a couple hours in the field and Mike had a dental appointment. He took Junior with him to the dentist's office since it overlapped with my meeting. Then I dropped of the school registration paperwork - LOTS of paperwork. School orientation is Thursday morning. I am a mom of a 7th grader! The world of middle school will open up our world. We have most of his school supplies and need to get a few school clothes.

Today was a visit with one of the caseworkers and a visit to Junior's new doctor. Then we walked the Huff N' Puff Trail. We make sure our son gets plenty of physical activity. We are still working on finding kids for Junior to play with so he doesn't have to hang out with just us "old folk". School doesn't start until after Labor Day and the church youth group starts up again mid-September.

We have not even completed the first week!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Family Keeps Growing

We met a delightful young man this weekend and he will join our family next weekend. It was a joy meeting his biological family and his foster family and we welcome them as part of our extended family! While they will not see their family member as often as they are use to, we plan to stay connected because we are now family - this child connects us forever.
It was a whirlwind weekend meeting our son and spending time getting to know each other. We return later this week to spend more time with him and his family before we move him to our home. There is so much to do before the move - travel plans, clean out his room, stock groceries for a growing boy, contact the school for registration, find medical and dental providers, line up counseling (if we can arrange before the move), contact the church youth leader, make arrangements at work for my time off. We need to create a binder for him for all the DSHS forms that are required for a foster child. There are sooooooo many forms we have been provided and so much we have to track. I do not want to get lost in the paperwork; I want to enjoy our time with with our son. While it is a blessing to have this long awaited for placement, we still need to rely on the Lord for strength, discernment, wisdom and peace during the transition. It will not be easy for the young man to move from the only town and people he has known to a new town, new home, new family, new church, new school and new friends.
Patience will be needed during the bonding process. It may take a while (several months or more than a year) to really bond as a family, but God's hand will guide us and His love is stronger than our love. The scriptures I have relied on during the waiting and matching period still ring true during this transition.

It is amazing how God has blessed the union of our families (biological, foster, and foster-adopt) to provide for the needs of this wonderful young man. May the Lord's love reign over us all as we create a larger family through love of a child. "The greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Habakkuk 2:3 RSV
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -- it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

Psalm 39:7 NRS
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Daniel 2:21b-23a NIV
"...he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors; You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you..."

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's a Boy!

Yes, we are meeting our son this weekend! We found out this morning about a young man needing a home and by noon we were asked to make a trip to visit this weekend. So tomorrow morning we drive several hours to meet him and his foster family. We will spend the weekend getting to know him and him getting to know us. Mike and I will return home Monday then go back to pick up our son Thursday evening to bring him home.

While we are excited, this is a major change for this young man and for the foster family he has been with since entering care. I pray his foster family will remain a resource after the transition and be a support to our son.

So many emotions and questions and thoughts are running through me right now. It may be a while before motherhood actually sinks in as reality.

With the Lord's help, we will become the family we all dream about.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Matching Process

We are in the unique matching process of trying to find our forever child. We have inquired on 16 youth so far, all age 10 to 17. One youth has been placed with his forever family. Another youth, we reviewed his file after talking with his caseworker and decided we were not a match. We are being considered for a third youth. There are many steps before we know if the youth's caseworker thinks we are a potential match then we have to review the disclosure file to decide if we want to continue forward.

Last weekend I read an article that some families have to inquire about 100 children/youth before they are matched. Others have had to inquire on 30 children/youth a month for several months until they are contacted about their match. While we have inquired about 16 and have eliminated two so far, waiting to find out more information about one, there are 13 others on our list that we are still waiting to hear about. This could be a long drawn out process as matching could take several months then we need to meet our child. Our caseworker is hoping to hear from the caseworkers of the other youth within the next two weeks, if we are going to hear from them.

Patience and prayers are still needed as we slowly work through this process.

Habakkuk 2:3 RSV
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

Psalm 39:7 NRS
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Daniel 2:21b-23a NIV
"...he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you..."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Major Milestone Complete!

Our adoption home study is complete! Our caseworker's supervisor signed it yesterday and it was being sent off to the caseworkers of four youth we inquired about in June. These caseworkers have been waiting patiently for our home study which means they think we might be a good match for the youth they represent just based on what our caseworker told them. We are officially in the matching phase of the process. The supervisor stated we were an impressive family based on the home study. With God's strength and grace, may we live up to that expectation for our child even with our shortcomings.

After I hung up the phone with our caseworker, I danced down the hall at work. Who cares if I have to work this weekend, we are a major step closer to parenthood!! Parenthood is very close, just a matter a months, maybe weeks.

One of the last steps we had to do this week was create a photo collage of our life. I included photos of us, my side of the family, Mike's side of the family and our cat. I also included a photo of the designated "local grandparents" who have been very supportive of our adoption process. We love them to pieces. Other photos depict the house, the child's room and activities we enjoy. It went together very quickly and turned out nicely. Due to the extreme personal connections of the photos, I am not going to post the collage.

I do not feel like I am swimming through quicksand any more. It is more of a rope and wood bridge securely anchored at both ends, but swaying in the middle. High in the air, queasy stomach with anxiety, uncertain footing, but knowing the anchors are secure.

Habakkuk 2:3 RSV
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

Psalm 39:7 NRS
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Daniel 2:21b-23a NIV
"...he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you..."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2-Year Anniversary

Psalm 38:15 NRS
"But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer."

July 10
Never thought that date would  mean much to me. Now it marks the day back in 2010 I first called DSHS to inquire about foster-adopt and kinship adoption. Two years later we have become licensed foster parents, been approved once for adoption and have to get approved again. We have been fingerprinted 5 times in that timeframe, granted once was for our international adoption process.

Never thought we would still be waiting to be matched with a child. The gallons of tears, the frustrations, the emails/phone calls/letters that have been exchanged for information, the anger at the system for making children wait longer, for making us wait longer.

Then the bizarre and still dumbfounding decision by the State to force us to go with a private agency to complete our adoption process. Things started moving along pretty well until June 21, last month - we have been stalled since that day. They had us rush our background checks in order to complete our home study, but the home study is still not finished nearly three weeks later.

Since we are in this weird limbo we cannot readily inquire about available children until our new home study is complete. DSHS refuses to place children with us even for respite care though we are licensed foster parents because we are listed as foster-adopt. The Placement Coordinator has called twice in the past six months than realizes whom she called once I answer, "Oh, you are wanting to adopt, never mind." Also, the children have been a sibling group or at the young end of our age range, just turned 5 and only needed emergency placement.

While we wait for our forever child I chose to take a leap this summer, I signed up to work in the nursery during Kid's Camp (Vacation Bible School) this year. This age group is younger than our target adoption age group which is age 8 and older so I won't be wishing my child was there. The past two years I have not participated in child-related activities at church or in the community because they upset my aching heart. I am beginning to miss these activities so it is time to ease back into the community. I use to volunteer in schools, judge science fairs, teach Sunday School and volunteer with children all the time. The adoption process removed my joy and desire of these activities; I prayed it would come back when we finally adopted, but the Lord has put the desire back in my heart before our child arrived.

However long the Lord has us wait for a child, today I feel I will be okay. Some days have been very difficult, some days I have been indifferent. Today I am okay. I like feeling okay. There is peace and contentment in being okay. I would like to keep this contentment as my core even after our child is placed with us. This peace has a calming factor and will be useful once a child is added to our family and our "normal" is turned to chaos until we establish a new "normal".  I need to remember to recenter my soul to find God's peace and contentment so I can be okay.

Habakkuk 2:3 RSV
"For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."
Psalm 39:7 NRS
"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Long "Gestation" Period

Black Alpine Salamander
Black Alpine Salamander, Photo: Wiki Commons/GNU*
Our adoption process has been compared to the gestation period of the mighty elephant. As we approach the 2-year mark of our foster-adopt process and the 2.5-year mark for our Jamaican adoption process, I researched gestational periods of other animals. Elephants carry their young for less than 2 years; we have surpassed that duration. The tiny black alpine salamander of the Alps gestate for 2 to 3 years depending on the elevation the creature lives. The dogfish shark is pregnant for 2 years while the basking shark for 3 years. The frilled shark lingers for 3.5 years before giving birth.* While our adoption processes have exceeded the gestation periods of the elephant and the dogfish shark, they have not yet exceeded the 3.5-year pregnancy of the frilled shark, the longest of all animals.

Many foster-adopt families are familiar with the long, drawn out process that fostering a child can be as the court determines if reunification or termination of parental rights (TPR) will occur. This process can take several years. Even if TPR is granted and the foster family is chosen to adopt, there may be appeals by the biological family and various delays before the adoption is finalized.

I have found it rare that families encountered so many road blocks as we have before a child is even matched. We haven't even been able to get to the point where our caseworker can talk to other caseworkers about potential children, until this month. We keep reaching the point of being able to inquire about children then get stalled. We hit that point in January and thought we were getting past that point this month.

I sure hope our "pregnancy" is not 3 years. Two years is long enough and we still have "labor" to proceed through which can be several months in itself. An encourager of ours said adoption is a "labor of Love" - a long, slow labor.

Adoption has many more unknowns than giving birth. With biological children, once you make it past the first trimester, you can expect to give birth between the 7th and 9th month. With adoption, you do not know which YEAR. Our journey continues as we wait for "gestation" to end.

*Source: Mother Nature Network

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More Fingerprints

June 16: We knew it was too good to be true when our caseworker said the agency was able to run our background check with the DSHS fingerprints. June 14 she emailed me requesting we go in ASAP for more fingerprinting because we needed an FBI background check and not just the WSP check. We were able to get our prints taken and processed Friday, June 15. Unfortunately, our caseworker has to be able to access the file directly and not have us email them to her and we are having problems getting her access. I have to contact the processing company Monday to find out how they can send her the results. The results state we have never been arrested and are in PDF so they are not edited, but the caseworker has to receive them directly from the company. Still, we are making progress.

June 20: Found out the company cannot send our results directly to the caseworker, but we have to provide our agency with our logins, passwords and secure access codes for the company's website. We tried that today and discovered our results were purged from the system after we saved them last Friday! Now we have to schedule new appointments and have the process repeated. We are waiting for the fingerprinting company to send the confirmation email that we are allowed to schedule new appointments. I wish there was an easier way to get our background checks processed. We might be able to get our appointments for Thursday afternoon or Friday. There is a chance we have to wait until next week.

After a conversation on Facebook with other adoptive parents about fingerprinting, someone suggested we needed a support group. I think it is time for a letter to my Senators. My Congressman is retiring, but my Senators need to know there has got to be a better way nationally for processing background checks. One central database so the different state foster care agencies and private adoption agencies can pull from the database. Right now, depending on who you are adopting from determines the fingerprinting process and not all states even require fingerprints even be taken.

Unlike the fingerprints with DSHS, these prints cost us money each time they are taken - $48/person - so $96 each time we schedule an appointment. Plus there is the fuel because the closest office is not within our county. It is an hour round trip plus I have to take time off from work during a very busy week. It seems "our" office is not as user friendly as the other offices our agency is use to dealing with for background checks. It is enough to increase my blood pressure and make me scream.

Adoptive parents tell me these roadblocks are worth in the end when our child is in our home and arms. Will the frustrations of parenting really be worth all this? Will we be willing to endure this again for a second adoption in the future when my fingerprints will be more worn and harder to scan; when the laws will have changed possibly to make it even more complicated? I pray parenthood will be worth all the tears, frustration, aggravation, anger, impatience and heartache I have already encountered. A tiny voice in the back of my mind started asking today, "What if parenting is not worth all this anguish? What if the child placed with us grieves us more than enthralls us?" If that is the case, we will have just the one child and deal with our life as it is with God as our refuge.

June 21: Fingerprinting completed for the 5th time! Got the results to our agency untainted via a befuddled phone call and email. Now our home study should be finalized next week.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fundraising to Bring Our Child Home

When we contracted with the private agency this Spring, I asked my parents how bad they wanted another grandchild and if they were willing to help us with the $10,000 agency fee. They were thrilled to helped us. As the path to adoption has been winding so has figuring out how to fund it. My parents were not expecting to pay for summer semester in college for my youngest sister or sending her husband to college this fall.

Since 2010 we have raised $8,731 through various fundraising activities - Swing Night, gifts from family and friends, tax returns and our savings account. We have spent $3,245.95 on the Jamaican adoption which began in 2009. This year we have spent $2,550 for the private agency foster-adopt. In total we have spent $5,796 on the two adoption processes. We now have $5,450 that will be due when it is time to place a child in our home, possibly July.

Mike and I have explored just asking grandparents for help or charging the final amount to our credit card. We will eventually get most, if not all, of the foster-adopt fee back after we finalize the adoption through the Adoption Tax Credit but that is months or a year down the road.

So I have prayed about our adoption process and feel we are being led to open up the opportunity for others to participate in bringing home our forever child. Through this blog I have been able to educate others about the adoption process and this is just one more way to spread the word about adoption, foster care and orphan care. We need to raise $5,515. Please pray, if you feel God calling you to help us to bring home our child, please contact me to find out how you can participate - jocelynegray at yahoo dot com or send a private message through my facebook page - If enough people donate $5 to $50, we will meet our goal quickly. Help us bring our forever child home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Breath In, Breath Out, and Hang On

We met with our caseworker today for our foster home inspection. She inspected the home on her last visit, but is required to make three visits so she filled out the paperwork. We did discuss where to store our alcohol - the wine cooler will be moved to the workshop which can be locked and inaccessible to children/teens. We have to install the locks on the chemical cabinets this month and purchase a fire escape ladder for the third floor.

We discussed our paperwork status. Our paperwork should be complete end of next week because our background checks managed to get processed and pass with the DSHS fingerprints from last year. We did not have to get re-fingerprinted as is expected since agencies are not usually allowed to share fingerprint files, just background check information. It is a blessing from God to have our background checks processed so easily this time. We had fingerprints done three times in 2011 - (1) for USCIS for Jamaican adoption process, (2) for DSHS Division of License Resources foster care license and (3) for DSHS Children's Administration adoption home study. Our home study will be complete around June 15!

We should receive a portfolio of information on a 10 year old by the end of next week, also. This might be our forever child, the child God has been preparing for us and us for him. Our caseworker is also working to contact the caseworker of a 9 year old girl. We are really expecting a placement in July, maybe August so we can get acquainted before school starts in September.

Parenthood is so close. I can almost reach out and touch my dream. After two years of paperwork, phone calls, letter writing, emails, and the emotional roller coaster we are so close to entering the ranks of so many other men and women called parents. It is almost terrifying that we will be responsible VERY soon for shaping the life of a young person.

Take a deep breath, exhale and hang on - parenthood is coming!

Exodus 15:2 New King James Version
"The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him."

Isaiah 26:4 King James Version
"Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Take a Deep Breath then Hang On

My heart is racing, my mind is racing and I can really only think, "Oh my, oh my!" We may be in early "contraction" phase of our adoption. Our caseworker is sending us a biography about a 10 yr old child and we are inquiring about another 9 year old. Our decision may come down to one of these two children. More discussion will occur when we meet with our caseworker on Wednesday for our foster inspection and meeting. We are anticipating possible placement in July or August if we are matched this month with a child. I need to be calm and let see how the next few weeks unfold before I get too excited about a new family member.

Take a deep breath and exhale. Then hang on because the fast forward button may have just been pushed.

Isaiah 26:4 King James Version
"Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cost of Foster-Adopt in WA

Since we have been required to contract with a private agency in order to adopt from foster care, many people assume WA state will cover the cost of our foster-adopt like a typical state foster-adopt. This is not our case. Our agency is not contracted with WA DSHS, but it is licensed to provide foster-adopt services, so the state does not reimburse our fees. If a legally free child is placed in our home, we will not receive fostercare stipends for the child. If the child is not yet legally free, we will receive monthly payments from the state. We are still responsible for $10,000 in fees to the adoption agency.
The fee is broken down as follows:
  • $550 Application Fee
  • $2,000 Home Study Fee
  • $2,000 Family Search Fee (covers costs to search for a child)
  • $5,450 Program Service Fee (post-placement supervision and finalization paperwork)

Taking on this financial responsibility was a leap of faith. Mike and I are blessed my parents are able and willing to help us with a large portion of these fees plus we had some already saved from previous adoption fundraising over the past two years. We had originally done fund raising for our international adoption which is still in process, but the funds are now being used for our foster adoption.

The shock on people's faces when the cost of our adoption is mentioned is repeatable. Then the same question is asked, "Doesn't the state pay foster care?" Usually, but not in our case. Then they ask, "How are other families going to afford adoptions in WA?" That is a good question. If other families are going to be required to contract with private agencies, many will not be able to adopt from foster care except going through the long-term fostercare process hoping that a child in their care will see more eventually become available. This will limit the number of children adopted from Washington's fostercare system. We will foster kids age out of the system. It will be interesting to how the WA State foster care changes over the next few years because of the budget cuts and making families choose between long-term foster parenting or paying to adopt from fostercare.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mother's Day - Face It or Avoid It

As another Mother's Day approaches and we do not yet have a child placed in our home, hiding from the world is my first reaction. It is not easy facing another holiday celebrating the joys of motherhood when there is no child calling me "Mom" and we are going through yet another round of paperwork with only the hope that we will get our placement later this year. It is impossible to completely avoid Mother's Day, but disengaging from media as much as possible is my goal this year.

I have also began to think of others who struggle with Mother's Day and Father's Day. There are birthparents who have closed or semi-closed adoptions so they do not have personal contact with their children. There are parents who have had a child die. This Mother's Day marks the one year anniversary since the Milroys lost their precious Aurora to cancer. All these parents never forget the child that blessed their lives. Even when birthparents have their parental rights terminated, they grieve the loss of their child. Other people have lost their parents or primary caregivers so these holiday allow the memories to resurface and  wish they had their loved one with them.

At least for me, there is hope the struggle with Mother's Day will come to an end in the relative near future. I pray next year my husband and child will be wishing me "Happy Mother's Day", but I must have faith that we will meet our forever child when the circumstances are just right. Patience is a virtue and my basement should be full of patience after three years of this adoption journey so far. I just have to remind myself that this is a journey; adoption does not end with the placement, it is a lifetime commitment so patience and resourcefulness are ideal skills to be mastered.

So for those who have children and grandchildren to fill your heart - Happy Mother's Day. For those who have mothers, grandmothers and mother-figures to celebrate - Happy Mother's Day.

For those who are waiting for your child (pregnancy, fertility treatment, or adoption), or missing your child or mothers or mother-figure, or for whatever reason find the holiday difficult - may you find peace in your soul and a little quiet time. Do what is necessary to honor the pain you feel without it consuming your life. Happy Sunday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moving Forward

We had our first meeting with our caseworker from Bethany Christian on April 25. The meeting went well. We discussed in detail what causes us stress and how we deal with stress. We discussed our support system - church, family, friends and counseling. We also agreed it is in our best interest to transfer our foster license from DSHS to Bethany Christian since the state is refusing to even place children for any reason with us; we cannot even do respite care through DSHS.

Our next meeting is mid-May and our caseworker has prepared us for what to expect. She will meet with Mike for an hour then with me for an hour then she will meet with us together for an hour. The questions are going to get really personal, but with this being our fourth home study, we are not worried about getting too personal.

Our third meeting will be our foster inspection. She will note anything we need to address and then we will address it and send her a photo. The caseworker believes our adoption home study will be complete before our foster license is transferred. The state may delay their end of the paperwork just because they are understaffed and overworked.

Our goal is to begin searching for a child this summer with hopes for placement this summer or this fall. This timeline gives us time to complete a few projects around the house before a child arrives. We have replaced the kitchen backdoor and child's bathroom remodel will occur in May. There are a few other items on the "to-do" list. We are making progress and are pleased with the relationship we have developed with Bethany Christian.

As we move forward I am encountering others who are experiencing roadblocks along their adoption journey. Just two months ago we were told we had to start our process over. I have spoken with a couple of families who are licensed foster parents, but the state is not placing children with them because they want to adopt. They are exploring the opportunities of working with a private agency in order to adopt from foster care. Other couples are waiting to be matched to a young child or birth mother and are learning this may be a long wait. Some of the families I have been able to provide with resources for private agencies in their area. Other families all I can offer are prayers for peace and patience. Stating "all will occur in God's timing" does not always provide comfort to those with empty arms. When your heart wants a child, reason does not always work so I have found it helps to offer prayers of peace and patience in their lives. These prayers have worked well for us.

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Daniel 2:21b-23a (NIV)
21...He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Latest Adoption Process Update

Bethany Christian Services determined we have to start from scratch with the home study process. We just completed most of the paperwork this past week. Our latest medical exams are scheduled for the week of March 20th. We have mailed letters and reference forms to our friends who have agreed to be our references. It has been wonderful to have so many people support us through this process who have been willing to write references for our foster license, for our DSHS foster-adopt process and now for our private foster-adopt process. Some of them even wrote references for our international adoption so they are becoming experts at writing reference letters or filling out reference questionnaires.
For our foster license, I just completed two weekends of training. The class was Parenting Plus which is a new class for new foster parents and from foster parents who are re-certifying. Next month we take "So You Have Your First Placement, Now What?" even though we have not had any children placed with us. This is another required class for new foster parents. The Parenting Plus class was good to learn from experienced foster parents.
We are proceeding through Round 3 for the foster-adopt process. I first made contact with DSHS about starting the foster-adopt process in July 2010 and now it is 1 year and 8 months later and we are still processing through the paperwork because our region decided we had to transfer our adoption case to a private agency. I have spoken with a placement coordinator in another region, she is not aware of the state no longer willing to work with families wanting to adopt from foster care without doing long term foster care. Her region has way more children than they have foster homes and adoptive homes available while I have talked to various foster-adopt families who have not had a placement for a year or two in our county. If she has children who are in need of permanent placements, I do not understand why there are not more placements between regions as long as it is in the best interest of the child. Maybe with me bringing up this topic with her and her beginning to talk to other regions, maybe more Washington children will find permanent homes with more inter-regional cooperation within DSHS. It will be interesting to see how Round 3 plays out as it is not a standard process in our case. Yes, we want it to lead to a successful adoption for us, but if it leads to more successful adoptions for several Washington foster children, then God's kingdom is in more places and in more lives.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Side Step in Our Journey

DSHS finally decided earlier this month that they will not be providing us adoption services and is getting out of the adoption business. The sole focus now is helping to keep children with their families and temporary foster care. Luckily, I had already begun contacting private adoption agencies in Washington. I found three that could provide services to us in our rural county.

I did not think it would be difficult to find an agency, that is not true. One agency limits the available children to Washington and Oregon and we felt that was too restrictive. A second agency does not want to place children over that age of 3 with us because we are untried parents and have had anxiety issues, even though they are resolved. Instead of us choosing an agency, that left us with one agency to decide if they were willing to work with us.

We know transferring our DSHS foster-adopt case to a private agency does not guarantee the agency will approve us for adopting an older child, but Bethany Christian Services is willing to work with us through the process. I have had a peaceful feeling working with their staff and our assigned social worker, even though we have not met. We have just exchanged lots of emails.

We are progressing through applications and sending our DSHS documents to the social worker via email to determine how much of the home study we have to update. We progress through this step and continue along our journey.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Continued Frustrations

Now that we have transitioned into the next phase of our adoption process and are trying to register with the various photolisting websites, we have encountered more frustrations. In order to fully register for these sites we are required to have an agency contact - name, phone number and email. Turns out the caseworker who completed our adoption home study is done with our case and will not be our contact. The local adoption social worker only represents children or works with families who have children in their homes already. I have a third DSHS employee looking into DSHS protocol and who should be our agency contact or if DSHS can even help us with this step. If DSHS cannot help us with finding a child, why did they tell us we could adopt through DSHS? I even had one DSHS employee tell us to now go with a private adoption agency after all we have gone through dealing with DSHS. If we really do need to go with a private adoption, we should have known this in 2010 so we could have worked with an agency from the beginning. We hope to have some answers by next Tuesday or I will be calling DSHS HQ to get our answers.

Until we figure out who our agency and agency contact will be, we cannot inquire about any child or youth. We have begun searching the photolistings and creating a list of potential children/youth we would like to inquire about once we can fully register with the websites. Since we have chosen not to be foster parents but to seek a child already legally free, the photolistings are really the only way for us to find a potential child/youth. The process works as follows, to my understanding:
  • We submit an electronic inquiry about a child we are interested in parenting.
  • The child's caseworker reviews our home study and profile.
  • If the child's caseworker thinks we could be potential parents, the caseworker contacts our agency's contact and the communicate.
  • Our agency contact receives information about the child and shares it with us.
  • We decide to parent or not parent the child after reviewing the file.
  • If the child's caseworker approves us to become the parents, we are invited to visit the child/youth and a disclosure meeting. The disclosure meeting allows us to learn about the the child's past, reason for being in foster care.
  • Depending on the needs of the child/youth, we may have several days of visits before returning home.
  • If fully approved to adopt the child, we will go to the child's current location and may spend several days before bringing the child/youth home.
  • Once home, we establish our routine with our child/youth with a DSHS caseworker making monthly visits until we are approved to finalize the adoption.
  • After six months or more, we get to finalize the adoption and make our family permanent.
We might meet our forever child this year. We might meet our forever child next year. Then there is a process to bring our child home then make the adoption finalized.