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Sunday, December 15, 2013

For E

I am here to support you,
here to care for you.
I wish your sorrows could be wiped away,
erased as the sunrise deletes the darkness. 
The world may be chaotic right now
one day you will find calm, peace.

Remember many people love you.
During times of great pain, your darkest days,
you just need to reach out to those of us who
love you, care for you, and can help you climb
out of the dark hole.

Keep dreaming as you have years to dream.
Dance among the butterflies,
roll across the grass. 
Enjoy each moment, treasure the time with
the people who support and love you.
Remember your beauty, your worth. 
You ARE beautiful. You ARE worthy.



Monday, November 25, 2013

It's been awhile

I have not felt like writing for some time. I have not been able to blog, to journal or write letters. My emotions seem to have consumed my words, sapped my ability to express my soul. I feel lost when I do not write, though this is not the first time I have had a word drought; one episode last for years. This latest drought has been caused by a combination of exhaustion, personal conflict, a busy schedule and an attempt to avoid certain emotional issues that have been bothering me.

Since the adoption in August, school has begun and we have settled into a routine of school, swim, church and busy weekends. Construction season extended into November this year so I was working longer days and some weekends plus the occasional emergency. Every weekend I had something scheduled for two months when I just wanted to catch up on sleep. I envied my teenage son who was able to take afternoon naps after school and sleep in on Saturdays. I remember sleeping like that as a teen. I still enjoy the occasional nap, but the are rare pleasures, or in some cases, rare necessities.

Mid-November a variety of things were calming down and I was beginning to feel my emotions again, really sense them. Then my nana had a massive stroke, just three weeks after we had joyously and magnanimously celebrated her 100th birthday. She shined at her party and was what every woman dreams of being at 100 - vibrant, beautiful, active, intellectual, gracious. The stroke on November 11 was fatal, just it has not killed her yet; it is sapping her life away, one day at a time. She made enough progress to move from the hospital to the rehabilitation center where she made progress fro three days, just enough to go home. Now she is being cared for by her two dear daughters - my mom and my aunt.

Intellectually I know she has lived a long, wonderful life and it is time to let her join the angels. My heart is struggling. Some of this is a reminder that we do not know when our time to leave earth will be; we do not have an "expiration date stamped on our rears", in the words of a wonderful friend.

Also, what does this death do to my son? Our first Christmas together as a family last year started with a funeral for my husband's grandmother. Vera's Alzheimer's was so bad she did not know who we were for the past two or three years, and never knew our son. This year, we are expecting another death this holiday season, this time my son has bonded with his new great grandmother. Oh, my nana loved Junior so much. She loved to tell her friends about her new great grandson! They had a special bond that is only experienced between the very young and the very old - a woman who remembers the first Armistice Day and a child who does not remember life before September 11, 2001. Will my son begin to resent holidays with our family because we the elderly in our family die at Christmas? Do these deaths trigger emotions and memories of his grandfather's cancer and death? He wants to remember great grandma as she was at her 100th birthday; those are good memories to cherish.

Junior and I have some things in common. We both had grandmothers send us off on our first day of school. He was raised by his grandparents; I was living with mine when I started Kindergarten. Our bonds with our grandmothers is stronger than typical grandparent-grandchild bonds who just visit each other. He still has my parents and Mike's parents to spend many years with plus his biological grandmother, Mike's grandfather, and Papa Willy. Mike has a grandmother still living, but her dementia has her very confused these days. The kid has lots of family to love him, support him, help him grow into a wonderful man. In fact, I have lots of family to love me and support me. We can get through the next few weeks and succeeding months together.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Adoption Stories and the Media

Nationwide there have been a variety of news articles about adoptions not ending well. Reuters wrote a series about several parents who decided to use the Internet to find new homes of their adopted children they felt they could no longer parent. Other stories have told how adoptive children have been abused, even killed such as the case of Hana Williams. There has been discussion within the adoption community on whether or not adoptive parents are willing to face negative stories about adoption. There was quite the discussion at Creative Family in two blogs and within their comments: Adoptive Parents Want to Hear Only the Positive and Why Adoptive Parents Tune Out Negative Adoption Stories - 1 Simple Reason.

Media thrives on sensationalism, heart wrenching stories that grab our attention. I live in a small town with few foster parents; people who know people who adopted, the children were infants or toddlers. I wanted my little portion of the world to know that adopting a teenager from foster care could be good for the child and for the parents. I know one of the local newspaper reporters so I contacted her about writing a story about our adoption journey. Natalie came to our home, spoke to the family and took photos. We talked about why we adopted (my health), why we chose older child adoption, about the week we were matched with Junior, and how few teenagers are adopted, or how few you hear about being adopted. It was a very nice article printed on September 19 with two full color photos. Natalie captured the tone I wanted to convey without sensationalism.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Family, and Children's Bureau Child Welfare Outcomes Report 2008-2011 to Congress, less than 11% of foster youth, nationwide, age out of the system. In Washington, there were 1,360 children legally free waiting to be adopted, 24% of them were age 12-18. Of the 1,568 children adopted from foster care in Washington that year, 10% were in the 12-18 age range. In 2011, 407 youth emancipated out of the foster care system in Washington State, many without a connection to a long term family to call their own.

It was because of these several hundred teens who deserve a permanent tie to a family - people who will celebrate graduations, weddings, birth of children, holidays - people who will be there to support the person during a break up, after a job is lost, after the death of a loved one. No one should go through life alone. I have rejoiced with my family during the good times and relied on them for strength during the bad. We are that rock for our son. If I can encourage just one more family to open their home to another teenager, that is one more life that has a better chance of succeeding, a greater likelihood of being happy, one more life that found permanence. Adoption is not for every teen, but there is long term foster care and guardianship. Any family that is willing to say, "You are our child, you are part of our family regardless of legal standing," will help the young adult to mature into a grounded, more secure human being. That is why I opened our home and our life to a newspaper reporter.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Full Time Parenting

We are definitely into full time parenting. No more caseworkers to report to each month, no more monthly reports to type up, no reports to the court or tracking of every illness and boo-boo our son gets. It is just two parents and a kid - a kid who caught the back-to-school cold and gave it to Dad. While life is not exciting, no longer full of anticipation, it is just day-to-day living and standard parenting a great kid. Yes, Junior is now sick, picked up a cold the second week of school and shared his germs with Dad. I am hoping this Mom does not get it, but my luck I will get the cold just as I need to give two presentations at a conference next week! This week I am gone for two days so I am monitoring his temp. He has not missed school yet, but the cold is progressing and should be peaking soon.

Thursday is School Picture Day. I have to leave town by 5:30 am, an hour before Junior wakes up. I will check his temp before I leave; if it is okay, I will call him while I am on the road (pulling over to make the call) so he wakes up for school. Next week while I am away for business, I will call each morning to get him up. I made similar calls this past May when I was gone for a week; I was his alarm clock. At night we talked about how school went.

Tonight, as I prepare for my first day of many over the next two weeks to be away, I am listening to my son cough as he tries to fall asleep. I want to make the cold go away, but at the same time know he is building new antibodies to this virus. Going to go try some home remedies to help him sleep tonight.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We are legal parents!

3 years, 1 month, and 13 days was our total time from first phone call made to DCFS to the time we stood in court to finalize the adoption. The first two years of our process was training and paperwork. I am now the proud owner of three 3-inch, 3-ring binders of paperwork. After the mountains of paperwork, the numerous phone calls, miles of emails, buckets of tears, frustrations, endless patience - Junior is now legally ours - forever and ever and ever!


Yes, this zany teenager who loves to make faces, poke people, and whistle at all hours of the night, is our wonderful, forever son! Our son who has grown four inches in the twelve months since moving in with us and two shoe sizes. He has changed from a little boy to a young man during this year. We love him for who he is and are helping him to become the man for which God created him. While our son is now legally ours, I will continue to use the name "Junior" in my blog to protect his identity as best I can while posting his photos since this blog is open to the public, available to the world. 


One of the proudest moments of our lives - all three of us being sworn in so we could agree to adopt Junior. The lawyer even asked Junior if he agreed to the adoption, even though it was not legally required. We had 15 people in the courtroom as witnesses to this event - family and friends who have supported us along the way. We had one of the largest groups ever to support a family adopting; only those the family wants in the courtroom are permitted. Our lawyer and even the judge were long time family friends. The judge grew up with my parents and with my husband's uncle. Another unique thing about our adoption witnesses, were the presence of Junior's biological mother and sister. It was a very special to have L and Sister celebrating the union of our two families.

After becoming a legal family, we enjoyed a celebratory breakfast at IHOP. Twelve people joined us for breakfast. Junior enjoyed the attention and the free ice cream sundae the IHOP staff presented him after his meal. Then it was back to my parents for an afternoon nap before a visit to the Benton Franklin County Fair where Junior enjoyed the carnival. 

The next day we celebrated with more friends and family during the pool party and BBQ my parents hosted. Then we were off on a week-long vacation to Northwestern Washington enjoying cool mornings, warm afternoons, and some western Washington rain. Junior enjoyed spending time with my parents (his Nana and Papa D), two of my sisters, and my niece. We spent time with his biological family - Aunt, Great Aunt, Sister, Biological Mother, Grandma, Cousins, Papa W - and many others during the week. Activities included walks along Birch Bay; kayaking, rock climbing, water slides, swimming; visiting relatives; enjoying Peace Arch State Park; school supply shopping; exploring MindPort and Rocket Donuts; enjoying frozen yogurt, ice cream and candy; enjoying fresh caught and home cooked salmon by his cousin; and ending the week with another Adoption Party. This party was for Junior's biological family, childhood church family and longtime friends. He and two of his best friends got to spend time together, the first time in two years the three of them have been together. Junior is blessed to have so many people supporting him in so many places of the globe.

Now we settle into regular living after parties and celebrations. School begins this week and a new routine will set our life. We still have paperwork to do - new social security card, adding Junior to my insurance, updating medical and dental records with his name change and insurance data, and getting him a passport card so we can take him to/from Canada the next time we are in Blaine or Sumas. We already received the Adoption Decree, but we are waiting for his new birth certificate. An adopted child receives a new birth certificate with their new name that lists the adoptive parents as the parents. We have copies of Junior's original birth certificate which we believe is very important for helping him define who he is as he matures. 

God will continue to guide us as we parent Junior and the Lord will guide Junior as we teach Junior His ways. For the first day of school he will proudly wear the cross presented to him by Grandma S as an adoption gift. He is finding his way to Christ; with love, security and patience, he will find the Ultimate Healer and Forgiver.

Ephesians 1:5 New Revised Standard
"He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will..."

We are all adopted by God.

Other scriptures that have gotten us through our journey have been:
  • Daniel 2:21-23
  • Exodus 15:2
  • Habakkuk 2:3
  • Isaiah 26:4
  • Proverbs 2
  • Psalms 9:1, 10, 39:7, 51
  • Matthew 19:14
  • Mark 5:3-16
  • 1 Corinthians 13:13
  • Romans 8:25




Our adoption process:
2010
  • July 2010 - first call to DSHS about becoming foster-adopt parents
  • October 2010 - began foster care classes
  • December 2010 - finished foster care classes and began paperwork
2011
  • January 2011 - began fingerprints and background check process
  • February 2011 - had fingerprints redone
  • March 2011 - fingerprints lost in system then finally found, completed paperwork
  • April 2011 - background checks completed/passed and foster licensor retires
  • May 2011 - a different licensor re-assigned; first home study review with licensor
  • June 2011 - second interview with licensor
  • July 2011 - counselor talks with licensor, home study on hold while licensor is on vacation
  • September 2011 - licensed foster parents; and begin adoption home study
  • December 2011 - adoption home study approved!
2012
  • January 2012 - try registering with adoption websites, begin struggle with state
  • February 2012 - forced by state to transfer case to private agency in order to adopt; our regional DCFS office will not place foster children in our home or work with us because we want to adopt
  • March 2012 - begin adoption home study process all over again with Bethany Christian Services
  • May 2012 - begin home study interviews and inspection
  • June 2012 - fingerprinted twice, complete home study interviews
  • July 2012 - adoption home study complete and foster license transferred to private agency
  • August 2012 - we learn about Junior in another region of the state, plan is adoption
  • August 18, 2012 - first foster placement - Junior moves in
  • November 2012 - state changes plan from adoption to concurrent adoption and reunification
2013
  • March 2013 - biological mother agrees to relinquish her parental rights
  • April 2013 - biological father's parental rights terminated; biological mother's relinquishment signed
  • May 2013 - biological mother's relinquishment filed with court and rights terminated; Open Adoption Agreement between us and biological mother filed with court; post-placement report sent to adoption lawyer and DCFS
  • June 2013 - Junior becomes legally free; adoption paperwork processed
  • July 2013 - we sign adoption papers and court date assigned for finalization
  • August 2013 - state signs adoption papers and sends them to our lawyer
  • August 23, 2013 - adoption finalized!!!!!!
  • August 23, 2013 - received adoption decree
  • September 2013 - we live as family

Friday, August 16, 2013

Emotions of an Open Adoption

I am dealing with a slew of emotions at the moment. Excitement is pulsating through me as I await Junior's adoption finalization, day by day. We have seven days left of this phase of our journey then we begin the rest of our lives. At the same time I acknowledge the bitter sweetness experienced by Junior's biological mother as Mike and I become Junior's legal parents. She is supportive of the adoption and our roles as parents, but there is still that sense of loss for her, the might have been that will never be. She will always be his biological mother, but now I am Mom. Her pain might be similar to the emptiness I have experienced the last few years, touched with a twinge of jealousy as she watches another woman raise her son. She decided to trust us to raise her son when she made her decision to relinquish her parental rights. Relinquishing also gave her the opportunity for an open adoption. 

Our adoption is a rather open adoption which is a rarity in a foster care adoption. Typically there is some contact between the foster-adopt family and the biological family, but letters are exchanged through secured PO boxes or emails and visits are once or twice a year. We have an agreement for one exchange of photos a year and four visits, but we expect more contact than that. Even though the adoption has not been finalized, we have maintained contact with his biological mother including some supervised visits. We have open contact with his sister, grandmother, aunts and cousins. It has been beneficial for Junior for us to integrate his biological family into our family - sharing holidays together, spending time together, building memories. He is so excited to have my sisters and parents meet more of his relatives later this month to celebrate his adoption. 

With our great joy of adoption, I am supporting my best friend through in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. She and her husband have tried for several years now to conceive and this is their first IVF cycle. I have supported her every step of the way - the joy, the disappointment, and the anxiety that comes with each test, each procedure, each step of this very scientific method of creating a baby, hopefully. Now we wait for a positive pregnancy test. We are praying for joyful news when the time comes, but I will be her support should this cycle fail and her dreams are dashed once again. Due to her treatment cycle and doctor appointments and our schedules, she has not met Junior in the year he has been with us. Yes, I want my best friend to meet my son, one of the joys of my life, my sunshine. If the IVF cycle fails, I will hesitate and confirm with her she is ready to meet my sunshine while she mourns her loss as encountering my joy during her sorrow may be too much to deal with, especially since she has a surge of hormones racing through her worn out body magnifying each emotion; I pray this will not be the case. I want her to meet my son in her full joy, knowing she has a little one on the way so we can enjoy motherhood together.


Joy, loss, excitement, sorrow - all swirling around to create our mosaic - Open Adoption. It is one of those many lessons that adoption teaches families, emotions are messy, there are no right or wrong emotions to feel when adopting.





Our adoption process:
2010
  • July 2010 - first call to DSHS about becoming foster-adopt parents
  • October 2010 - began foster care classes
  • December 2010 - finished foster care classes and began paperwork
2011
  • January 2011 - began fingerprints and background check process
  • February 2011 - had fingerprints redone
  • March 2011 - fingerprints lost in system then finally found, completed paperwork
  • April 2011 - background checks completed/passed and foster licensor retires
  • May 2011 - a different licensor re-assigned; first home study review with licensor
  • June 2011 - second interview with licensor
  • July 2011 - counselor talks with licensor, home study on hold while licensor is on vacation
  • September 2011 - licensed foster parents; and begin adoption home study
  • December 2011 - adoption home study approved!
2012
  • January 2012 - try registering with adoption websites, begin struggle with state
  • February 2012 - forced by state to transfer case to private agency in order to adopt; our regional DCFS office will not place foster children in our home or work with us because we want to adopt
  • March 2012 - begin adoption home study process all over again with Bethany Christian Services
  • May 2012 - begin home study interviews and inspection
  • June 2012 - fingerprinted twice, complete home study interviews
  • July 2012 - adoption home study complete and foster license transferred to private agency
  • August 2012 - we learn about Junior in another region of the state, plan is adoption
  • August 18, 2012 - first foster placement - Junior moves in
  • November 2012 - state changes plan from adoption to concurrent adoption and reunification
2013
  • March 2013 - biological mother agrees to relinquish her parental rights
  • April 2013 - biological father's parental rights terminated; biological mother's relinquishment signed
  • May 2013 - biological mother's relinquishment filed with court and rights terminated; Open Adoption Agreement between us and biological mother filed with court; post-placement report sent to adoption lawyer and DCFS
  • June 2013 - Junior becomes legally free; adoption paperwork processed
  • July 2013 - we sign adoption papers and court date assigned for finalization
  • August 2013 - state signs adoption papers and sends them to our lawyer
  • August 23, 2013 - adoption finalized!!!!!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

17 Days and Counting

We are down to the last 17 days until Junior legally becomes our son. All the paperwork has been signed by us, the state and the lawyer and submitted to the judge. We have to show up to court on August 23 to state we will raise Junior to adulthood and treat him as a part of the family then Judge Spanner will sign our adoption papers. Then we get to celebrate many times over for a week!

Junior is excited about accepting our last name as his. He is beginning to lay claim to us after a year. The past two weeks we have been painting and redecorating his bedroom, making it reflect his personality and helping him feel he has a permanent place in our home. His room currently has two green walls, the other two walls will become gold and the curtains, shelves and rug are black. The comforter and dresser accents are red. It dawned on me while purchasing the curtains that the green, gold and black are the colors of the Jamaican flag, the country of origin where we began our adoption journey. While we did not complete our Jamaican journey, God led us down the foster-adopt path which I was trying to avoid with all my might, but I finally handed our journey to Him. It has been a roller coaster ride for three years and a great lesson in patience. I was needing to learn patience so the Lord made sure I got a 3-year lesson.

Our journey has, also, been a lesson in acceptance. I have had to learn to accept Junior's biological family and the contact we have established for Junior's sake. Our family has grown to include his biological family, not just his biological parents, but his sister, his grandmother, his aunts, his cousins, and other extended family plus family friends that have been integral in his life.

The Lord has truly blessed us by bringing our families together last August. In 17 days, we will legally be a family through an amazing 13 year old. A 13 year old who leaves his socks all over the place; who has to be reminded to do his chore list; who cannot remember to do homework from the time he leaves school to the time he arrives home 30 minutes later; who wears clean, wrinkled clothes out of the clean laundry basket instead of putting his clothes away. A 13 year old who does not wear a coat when it is freezing out; who goes barefoot just about everywhere year round. A 13 year old who is helpful, caring and fun loving. We were matched with our God-chosen child after many, many prayers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Preparing for Finalization and Family Forever

This month we have been preparing for finalization now that Junior is legally free for adoption. There have been lots of emails and phone calls between us, DCFS, the adoption agency and our adoption lawyer. We waited three weeks, but finally received our adoption paperwork that needed to be filled out and signed. The packet also included all of Junior's disclosure documentation; nothing really new, it just filled in some details. Thursday (tomorrow) I will mail the completed packet back to the adoption caseworker at DCFS and Adoption Support Services has about three weeks to process the paperwork. Once DCFS completes their processing, they forward certified copies to our lawyer for processing so we can get a court date for finalization. Typically 6 to 8 weeks from now we could finalize the adoption. During review of the disclosure documents I did find a clerical error in the termination order for the biological father so we are waiting for the Assistant Attorney General's reply - does the order need to be refiled with the error corrected and if so, how long will it take to get this processed.

In regards to bio mother, we are in a type of limbo now that her rights are relinquished and the adoption is not finalized. Oftentimes, DCFS will highly encourage the prospective adoptive families not to have contact with the biological parents until after finalization. In Junior's case, they have left it up to our discretion - contact is what is in Junior's best interest. I am currently in contact with bio mother on an occasional basis. We did arrange a supervised visit to her hometown since we were up her direction. It was a good visit for us, Junior and bio mother. She seems to have found peace and I am glad for her and for Junior.

Our long journey from no children to becoming legal parents is nearly complete. It was a two-year process from my first call to DSHS about becoming foster-adopt parents to getting our first placement, but about a year from placement to finalization. It is amazing how our lives have changed in less than one year when Junior entered our routine lives. August 18 will be our one year anniversary as a family. He had me at "Hi" on August 11, 2012, the day we met - two adults wanting to become his new parents and a young man not sure he was ready to leave the only town he ever lived in, but not having much choice in where he got to live. Ten months later, we are a functional, caring family expanded to include his biological family, his former foster family and all the other people who love and care for him. Our village is not just Shelton, we have a support system that extends into eastern Washington, northern Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Ohio, Louisiana, California, Illinois, Texas, Maine, Finland and other places around the globe. Junior has many people praying for him, many people who care about him, many people who mentor him, and many people he calls Family.

Our adoption process:
2010
  • July 2010 first call to DSHS about becoming foster-adopt parents
  • October 2010 began foster care classes
  • December 2010 finished foster care classes and began paperwork
2011
  • January 2011 began fingerprints and background check process
  • February 2011 had fingerprints redone
  • March 2011 fingerprints lost in system then finally found, completed paperwork
  • April 2011 background checks completed/passed and foster licensor retires
  • May 2011 a different licensor re-assigned; first home study review with licensor
  • June 2011 second interview with licensor
  • July 2011 counselor talks with licensor, home study on hold while licensor is on vacation
  • September 2011 licensed foster parents; and begin adoption home study
  • December 2011 adoption home study approved!
2012
  • January 2012 try registering with adoption websites, begin struggle with state
  • February 2012 forced by state to transfer case to private agency in order to adopt; our regional DCFS office will not place foster children in our home or work with us because we want to adopt
  • March 2012 begin adoption home study process all over again
  • May 2012 begin home study interviews and inspection
  • June 2012 fingerprinted twice, complete home study interviews
  • July 2012 adoption home study complete and foster license transferred to private agency
  • August 10, 2012 we learn about Junior in another region of the state, plan is adoption
  • August 18, 2012 first foster placement - Junior moves in
  • November 2012 state changes plan from adoption to concurrent adoption and reunification
2013
  • March 2013 biological mother agrees to relinquish her parental rights
  • April 2013 biological father's parental rights terminated; biological mother's relinquishment signed
  • May 2013 biological mother's relinquishment filed with court and rights terminated; Open Adoption Agreement between us and biological mother filed with court; post-placement report sent to adoption lawyer and DCFS
  • June 2013 Junior becomes legally free; adoption paperwork processed
Through our long, winding journey, I have developed patience, wisdom, and perseverance, experienced moments of peace and joy, learned contentment, had to forgive and ask forgiveness, been taught humility, cried many tears, ranted with frustration and spent hours praying. God has been by my side along this journey and will continue to guide me as we raise Junior to adulthood. Even after all the ink is dry on the adoption paperwork and Junior is legally ours, parenting is a lifelong commitment. As I told Junior the other day, "Even when you grow up and move out of the house, we are still your family. We are your family forever and ever. We will remain family even when we are dead. We are not going anywhere, we will remain family."

Psalm 51:1-13, New Revised Standard
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Onward to Finalization!

We have been waiting months for today. Today parental rights of the biological father were terminated and the relinquishment for the biological mother will be filed some time this week, maybe even as late as next week; Junior will become legally free very soon. His reaction was, "Now I can do whatever I want!" "Um, no. It means you legally have no parents for the time being, the state is your complete guardian until the adoption."

I have contacted our lawyer who will be filing our paperwork for the finalization. The lawyer then has to request the adoption paperwork from our adoption private agency (home study, post placement report and other documentation). DCFS will transfer Junior's case from foster care to adoption within three days of him becoming legally free. DCFS still needs to draft the Open Adoption Agreement that biological mother and us verbally agreed upon during a meeting then we all need to review it before signing. Depending on how quickly all this paperwork goes, we could have adoption day in 2 to 3 months. Oftentimes, when families get to this point, they still need to complete the adoption home study, but we had that completed prior to meeting Junior. When you have to complete your adoption home study, it is 4-6 months from termination/relinquishment to finalization; therefore, it will be 2-3 months for us from termination/relinquishment to finalization. We have waited over three years for this finalization.


Romans 8:25 NRSV
"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience"

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."


I am ecstatic about finally being so close to finalizing an adoption. At the same time, I realize Junior's biological mother is voluntarily relinquishing her parental rights and his biological father defaulted in the case so his rights were terminated by the court. While Mike, Junior and I gain so much, Junior still experiences a loss, a permanent severing of legal ties to either biological parent. I am in contact with Junior's biological mother and she is relieved the case is moving forward; she has stated numerous times she knows we will care for Junior and finish raising him with love and encouragement, but I do not know how she is processing the loss she may be feeling. I do not know what emotions Junior's biological father has experienced through this entire process nor do we know if he will continue to have any contact with us, which will be just another loss for Junior of bio father chooses to not have contact.

Adoption is about loss and gain, healing and forgiving. I am glad we can be the family for Junior as he matures plus we can provide emotional support for his teenage sister. Our family is larger by adding Junior's biological family which is quite large, but we always said it takes a village to raise a child. I continue to pray for all involved in Junior's case.

Still, my heart is full of joy, there is a dance in my step and I sing praises to the Lord for bringing us this wonderful miracle - our beautiful, 5'6" bouncing boy! Oh, how I love him! When I heard he would be legally free very soon and we are moving into the adoption stage, I shouted and danced for joy! Our wild roller coaster of unknowns is nearly done and we just deal with the wild roller coaster of parenting a teenager, oh my goodness! :)

Psalm 9:1
"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."

Our foster-adopt process:
  • October 2010 began foster care classes
  • December 2010 finished foster care classes and began paperwork
  • January 2011 began fingerprints and background check process
  • February 2011 had fingerprints redone
  • March 2011 fingerprints lost in system then finally found, completed paperwork
  • April 2011 background checks completed/passed and foster licensor retires
  • May 2011 a different licensor re-assigned; first home study review with licensor
  • June 2011 second interview with licensor
  • July 2011 counselor talks with licensor, home study on hold while licensor is on vacation
  • September 2011 licensed foster parents; and begin adoption home study
  • December 2011 adoption home study approved!
  • January 2012 try registering with adoption websites, begin struggle with state
  • February 2012 forced by state to transfer case to private agency in order to adopt; our regional DCFS office will not place foster children in our home or work with us because we want to adopt
  • March 2012 begin adoption home study process all over again
  • May 2012 begin home study interviews and inspection
  • June 2012 fingerprinted twice, complete home study interviews
  • July 2012 adoption home study complete and foster license transferred to private agency
  • August 10, 2012 we learn about Junior in another region of the state, plan is adoption
  • August 18, 2012 first foster placement - Junior moves in
  • November 2012 state changes plan from adoption to concurrent adoption and reunification
  • March 2013 biological mother agrees to relinquish her parental rights
  • April 2013 biological father's parental rights terminated; biological mother's relinquishment filed



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Infertility and Choices

I recently met with my best friend whom I have not seen in nearly a year. Between our adoption paperwork last year and her and her husband's infertility testings last year, we both were dealing with a lot. When Mike and I were blessed with Junior later in the year, they backed off even from phone calls as it was difficult to for them to be happy for us while they continued to struggle with their empty arms. We knew this would happen as we had discussed this scenario before we were matched with Junior. Roles would have been reversed had she given birth before we received an adoptive placement. I am still infertile, but we now have a child in our family; adoption does not negate my infertility, it is an alternative for growing our family. They are still infertile and are pursuing IVF in hopes of a child. After spending several hours catching up with my best friend, one thing she said stuck with me, she said that while they have been trying fertility treatments for two years, she and her husband have been trying to conceive for four years and it has taken its emotional toll. This statement got me thinking about her journey and about my journey.

Mike and I have had years, almost decades, of emotions regarding my fertility and other health issues. I actually found out at age 15 (20 years ago), a year before meeting Mike, that I would not be birthing children. At the time, I readily accepted adoption as my only path to motherhood. I was okay with this decision for years. After we were married for 10 years and were looking at adoption options, I also explored surrogacy, but realized we would have to go through adoption even in this case since we would be using a surrogate with at least donated egg, possibly donated embryo. Regardless of our path to parenthood, our choices were: adoption or childlessness. That does not really seem like options, but thinking more about it, I realize most people do not even think about how they are going to form their family. They have sex, the woman gets pregnant, carries a health baby to term and they raise the child. That is suppose to be the standard, no-thought process. We actually had to think about how we wanted to become parents, so did my best friend and her husband. They discussed fertility treatments and adoption. They already tried IUI and are moving on to IVF. Even with IVF there are a variety of choices which the non-infertile person is not aware even exist. With adoption we have choices of: foster-adopt, domestic infant or international. We started an international adoption process, but moved to foster-adopt. Even with foster-adopt, we had to choose a private agency (see A Side Step in Our Journey for previous blog post), but our choices were limited due to our location and desired age of child.

Now there are some choices we did not get to make about our child - name, age and past experiences. For many parents, picking a name for their child before birth is a wonderful thing. Since we were adopting an older child, we knew our child would come with a name; we would work with our child should he/she want to change his/her name at the time of adoption, but the child would already be named upon arrival. As for age, we only knew our child would be over age 5, then age 8, the we moved it to age 10 and older. And past experiences, we would have no idea until we were matched.

In ways infertile couples have more choices for family planning than fertile couples, but these choices are thrust upon us because we cannot achieve parenthood in the traditional way. Since we are forced to make various choices on our path to parenthood, it elicits a variety of emotions along the way. A common emotion during these choices is anger - anger due to frustration from having to make the choices, anger at our failed bodies, anger at having to expose our lives including finances to adoption workers or infertility clinic employees, anger due to exhaustion of going through the process(es) we chose, anger at other people's ability to get pregnant or adopt quicker. So often we feel alone when we need the greatest support, we feel we are either forgotten or misunderstood by our loved ones. Our fertile family and friends may not understand our decisions or about infertility so they may avoid us or say very crass things including identifying the cause (blame) of our infertility (see Creating A Family Blog: Playing Blame Game Infertility) which only causes us more pain and anger. My best friend and I are open about our infertility and our choices with others - her fertility treatments and me adoption - so we can let other infertile couples know they are not alone, we are not alone. When we started our adoption journey, I did not expect to become so knowledgeable about the various ways to adopt, fertility treatment, surrogacy and everything else related to infertility. I am in no way an expert, but I know way more than I knew existed before we started this journey. With my friend going through IVF I am learning more about the choices she faces. Maybe, some day, by talking openly about our struggles and choices, when the next generation faces infertility, it will not be the shameful, lonely, anger-filled dark place it still remains for many of us. Hopefully each of us dealing with infertility, couples and individuals, can find peace with the decisions we have made along the way.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Foster Parenting Rules: Locks

When I discuss some of the rules and regulations we have to follow, many are amazed at many of them. Some are set in state regulations while others are up to the individual caseworker. We are required to have a grate around our wood stove insert which is typically required for a child under age 8, Junior is 13 years old. Then we have locks - on everything. Medication is extremely important to lock up for small children and for teens. Young children might think it is candy and older children might try to get high. With my health issues, I have A LOT of medication. Luckily we have a built-in cupboard with two shelves. One shelf is for topical medications and the second shelf is for internal medication.

This is the combination lock system on our medication cupboard. We also have locks on the cupboards storing our chemicals - cleaning agents, detergents, lighter fluid, pest killers. The think about the laundry detergent is that Junior does his own laundry each week so this gets tricky. Any alcohol we have must be locked up since we have a teen and our workshop with the power tools is required to be locked up. The workshop is an indoor room with a locking door, only us parents have a key.

Problem with my medications is I have to carry many of them with me in my purse in case I have a food allergy attack. There are five different medications for food allergies plus ibuprofen and a couple other meds I always travel with. I put a lock on my purse, but it was clumsy and only had one main compartment. Well, I found a new purse that has a dedicated "medication" pocket. I even have a smaller purse inside that pocket that holds just my food allergy medication. Granted, the green lock against the stylish black is not very becoming and actually got a laugh out of Junior when he saw it because he knows I carry my medications. I locked the zipper to the ring for the shoulder strap (which I removed). I thought it was brilliant, it is also a way to secure my purse while traveling.

With all these locks to protect Junior and to comply with the foster parenting regulations, we must be aware to not lock our hearts. We continue the bonding process and to show our affection for him. With the uncertainty of his case, there have been times that I have wanted to protect my heart should the judge decree we do not get to parent Junior. It is too late to protect my heart and soul, I have given my life for this child, I will shatter should he leave, but I know I will survive.

While we have locked up our cupboards, our rooms and my purse, our hearts have been splayed open waiting. Waiting to learn where our road leads - continued parenthood or more empty arms. Next Tuesday is a pivotal day in his case. Please pray for all of us involved that the best interest of Junior is considered.







Thursday, January 17, 2013

Proud of Junior

Junior has made some major accomplishments this week. He received an award for good behavior in class. He is a good student and typically does not act up in class, but his behavior was recognized in a class where he lacks interest and does not complete class work. We were glad he has improved his attitude, not sure if it will translate into an improved grade. Then in math he completed 60 multiplication problems in 60 seconds. The school principal awarded all students who accomplished this task to lunch off campus. They walked to a local restaurant and the principal bought the kids lunch. Junior really enjoys math and it tends to come easy for him. It is still an honor to be recognized plus he got chicken strips for lunch!

He has also been doing some emotional growing this week and I am proud of him for being able to to handle the situations that he has faced. Foster children's lives are not your typical childhood and often they have to deal with more complex situations than their peers. While a part of me wishes to protect him, shield him from the complexities and uncertainties of his case, I realize he will have a more mature way of making decisions and an increased ability to deal with his emotions, something typically lacking in teenagers. To help him make sense of his life, we are working on his life book. A scrapbook with photos he has chosen that depict his life through the years and descriptions about who he is and the important people in his life. For the school section we listed the schools he has attended. One page lists his favorites - food, color, song, movie, etc. It has been amazing to observe Junior's emotional development over the last five months. Yes, it has been five months since we became a family and our lives changed forever.

We progress through his case, with all its uncertainties, waiting for the day when we find out if we get to be his forever parents. Then we incorporate both birth parents into our family along with all the other biological relatives. Our family just grows. We so love Junior!

The next several weeks are going to be intense in regards to his case, especially if we go to trial and it gets postponed. There is at least one meeting scheduled prior to trial where the open adoption agreement will be presented to the lawyers of each biological parent. Either parent can decide to relinquish parental rights or to go to termination trial. The open adoption agreement goes into affect after the adoption is finalized if one or both parents relinquish parental rights. If we go to trial and both parents' rights are terminated then there is no open adoption agreement, contact with bio parents is whatever we and Junior decide is best for Junior.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bang Your Head and Scream

I know most moms have days where they want to bang their heads against a wall and scream because their children have not been so angelic. I have read plenty of Facebook posts about such children of my friends. Luckily, Junior is a very good teen and is not the one making me want to scream. Between stresses at work and frustrations with Junior's case, I want to bang my head against a brick wall!

We are having problems with background checks for our family members. I recently found out the background checks for my sisters were processed incorrectly so they cannot provide overnight care. Last month, my parents were to be cleared for overnight care, but only got cleared for children placed for adoption, not in foster care. Junior is a foster placement so how does any of this make sense? All background checks now have to be redone, but the state doesn't have the time to process them; luckily, we have a private agency competent enough to process the background checks needed. Currently, we are being expected to pay out of pocket for these background checks then we submit receipts for reimbursement. That is five people who need fingerprints.

All of this is added to the frustrations at work where I have one out of order copier/scanner and one copier/scanner that is intermittently scanning. I am attempting to scan 500 pages. We are waiting for the arrival of the new machines which are due this month.

I WANT TO BANG MY HEAD AND SCREAM!!!!!