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:
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • 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