Friday, May 24, 2013

Believer's Dilemma

I believe that children are supposed to be raised by their biological parents. I refuse to believe God places children in the womb of other women with the intention of sending them to a nice foster or adoptive family. I believe foster care and adoption exist because people make poor choices, not because some children are destined for this road.

I believe that in the event a child can not be raised by their biological parents, a relative or person close to the parents should be sought out. I believe that the children deserve some connection over no connection: Growing up with Grandma in the house where his Dad was raised. Seeing pictures of her Mom as child in her Aunt's scrapbooks. Hearing stories about his family from the best friend who his parents call "cousin".

I believe that the very act of placing a child in the home of a foster or adoptive family causes loss and trauma, so it should only be done when the child's family can or will not care for them safely. I believe this trauma (some would call it a wound ) happens regardless of the quality, preparation, or love of the fost/adopt family.

I believe that every service should be provided to a parent to help them regain custody of their child before and after removal. I believe that poverty is never a good reason to remove a child. I believe the only children who should be adopted are the ones where everything else has failed. I believe rehab, transportation, food/clothing assistance, housing, and medical care should be readily available to the families involved in the child welfare system. I believe in diligent efforts. I believe children from tough starts become the heroes of tomorrow. I believe giving children the world, but denying them their family does not save them.

I believe children should have every safe opportunity to see their family after removal. I believe those opportunities should extend past adoption and beyond just birthparents. I believe children have the right to all of their information, and to the unedited version of their story. I believe sheltering our children from the truth does not change what happened to them. I believe talking about it and facing their history head on with them is the only loving choice. I believe more contact is the solution to the child's questions and fears post-adoption, not a break from contact until they are older. I believe sharing the child with their biological family in no way diminishes the role of  foster and adoptive parents in their child's life. I believe pretending a biological parent is just "the woman who delivered her" (said by an adoptive Mother at a foster care class recently) only denies the child of a meaningful connection. I believe abuse and neglect do not sever familial bonds.

I believe foster care and adoption should give more to the child than it takes away.

I really do believe all that stuff. Really, Really.

But then you have this child in your house who is injured and screams in the middle of night- fearful that their Mother will find them. It gets a little harder to believe.

And you have a Grandma who was told to just come and the baby wouldn't be placed in foster care, but she never made it. Or the Uncle who waited 2 years to step forward as a relative resource. Or the sister who forgot to tell the caseworker about the boyfriend living in the house. It gets a little harder to believe.

You get to know the people who open their homes and hearts to children who need someone. They are kind, passionate, and knowledgeable. They don't dismiss the gravity of what these children face. You kind of wish they were your parents. You see them love these kids and you see the kids love them. You see how the foster parent grieves when a child goes home- the fear for that child's safety that keeps them awake at night. You know that child will yearn for them too. It gets a little harder to believe.

...and it gets really easy to be negative...

When you see the Dad who "lost" his monthly bus pass for the 5th time in a row and can't make it to court or a visit. Or Mom, who loses her welfare and food stamps because she failed to comply with the substance abuse recommendations. But then they walk in to CPS with more expensive sneakers than you can afford. Do you see the caseworker bringing Dad to his 4th orientation for the court ordered parenting classes? Because he goes to orientation, but misses the rest of meetings... And the reunified children you love more than your own life? They are wearing last year's shorts you bought them- that are too short now, and they are covered in flea bites. You know their diet consists mostly of yogurt tube pouches and hotdogs. Diligent efforts have been made for over half of your 8 year old's life. It gets harder to believe.

Sitting in the hallway, wondering if you're doing the right thing by not going into the bedroom as your 4yr old rages after a visit. Walking a 6 week old baby through the metal detectors at the county jail to see a parent. Having the transportation company driver tell you no one showed up for the visit that the kids made Valentines for Grandma. When Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa all mean members of your family more often than members of the child's family. It gets harder to believe.

Because explaining homelessness is harder than saying, "She couldn't have raised any child". As is explaining rape and incest harder than, "There is no Father listed your original birth certificate.". Because there is a difference between, "The judge told your Dad that it is not safe for you to live with him ever again.", and, "Your Mom signed an agreement stating that you will never live with her again, but she can write you 2 letters every year.". Don't forget, "I know Grandma said you are going to live with her, but when the caseworker sent her the papers, she never filled them out. The judge can not send a child to live in a house that hasn't been looked at by the caseworker. We need to know the house is safe.". It gets harder to believe.

I've been very blessed to be surrounded by awesome foster and adoptive parents both in real life and in online community. I recently have heard a lot of chatter about relatives coming to take kids, how the parents get all the rights, and asking for ideas to get visits reduced. I'm stuck in my dilemma because I still believe for these kids. I know there are all kinds of details and injustices that make everyone's situation the exception. I know what it's like to be devoted to a child and so fearful of what could be. So when someone who is really well meaning says they hope Baby 9's family never comes around and we get to keep her forever  I know they don't really mean they hope my daughter never gets answers about her biological connections. They aren't saying that an "easy" adoption story of abandonment is preferable over a "difficult" adoption story where everyone fought to the bitter end because this child is loved and wanted by her whole family.

I really mean it when I tell my friends that I hope they can adopt the child who was placed with them. More accurately, I hope they get a child placed with them who actually needs to be adopted. I feel their relief and joy when they come out of court with a surrender or a termination of parental rights after years of tears, and attachment, and second chances.

There is a lot of room to get self righteous educate on these topics. There have been a couple of people I really want to call out on their behavior. Equally so, I can't imagine being given the chance to fight for my biological child and having years go by without any movement. I don't think it does right by the child or the biological family to let reunification efforts linger for years and years. The system leaves a lot of room to become suspicious and defensive toward biological families and reunification. That's even before noting how damn hard it is to go love and let go.

I don't want to be bitter. I want to be a believer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I learned at court

We had court for Baby 4 last week. I learned that Kim Kardashian is proud of her baby bump and Drew Barrymore is blonde after being brunette for a while- all from the magazine I read in the lobby. I really should have expected nothing less. We go back in July. Sigh.

Our yearly recertification inspection was this morning. It went as planned. House is good. Family's good. Are you willing to adopt if the opportunity arises? Yes. That's good.

Oh....Baby 9- she's throwing me for a loop. I'm so in love with her. She came into care with no information about her family. Then we got some information and had one visit. Now we have no information again and visits are all cancelled. She has a newer judge who doesn't seem too warm or fuzzy for foster care, but also isn't known for crazy decisions. Everything inside me is yelling, "Anything can happen.", except my heart which says, "Go ahead and get your hopes up. She'll probably stay forever.".

Having a newborn is exhausting. Baby 9 thinks it's perfectly acceptable to be awake and ready to play from 1am- 4:30am daily. Baby 4 has taken to her pretty readily, but Baby Girl is not impressed. She wants to touch Baby 9's toes or hold her hand for a second, but then she wants 9 to promptly be placed out of sight. It's actually really funny.

Right now we are in the hospital with Baby 4 for surgery. He's had 9 of these since being with me. I am the only one here since Brandon is home with the girls and no one biologically related showed up. It's hard not to  feel offended on 4's behalf. I'm doing a really terrible job controlling my temper as a matter of fact. How dare you say you want this baby, but let someone you've called as tranger be with him every time he wakes up from anesthesia?!

Baby 4 has asked about adoption a lot since he came with us to Baby Girl's adoption. He says he wants to be adopted. He's asked what his name would be if he was adopted and we talked about making his current last name his new middle name- so when you say his full name, it sounds like we've just added our last name to the end. He wants to see the judge again and pick where we go to dinner afterward. We ahve been telling him that nothing will happen until after he's 7 years old, but when we go see the judge she can tell us if he can be adopted or not.

Then  there was the day where it looked like Baby 9 would be having visits on the same day as 4. I was talking to my Mom about our schedule and Baby 4 got really confused over why 9 would be visiting Baby 4's Dad. We explained that the visits are in the same building but the kids would be in different rooms- Baby 4 with his Dad and Baby 9 with her Mom. He said, "Oh, is Baby Girl going on a visit too?". I told him no, Baby Girl is adopted, not in foster care so she doesn't go on visits. Baby 4's eyes got really big, "I won't go on visits when I'm adopted?". I told him visits are different in adoption. Instead of going every week to a building to see your Dad, he'll come to our house for Christmas and to your birthday parties. We'll invite your Dad to all your school concerts and sports games, and we'll ask him to come with us to the zoo or mall sometimes. Baby 4 very promptly retracted all his former pro-adoption statements and let me know he will stay in foster care because he wants to go to visits.

So I shook my fist to the heavens because it's not fair that Baby 4 has to contemplate such big problems as such a tiny human. Then I cried because shaking my fist at the heavens is my only recourse in this whole situation.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rainbow Baby

The past month has been CRAY ZAY.

I grieved hard core for Baby 7 & 8.

 I climbed my way to the administrator of Child Protective Services in search of therapy for Baby 4 to address Baby 7's death. His caseworker actually said to me that "the trauma" had not affected him because "I mean, does he cry everyday?" I said, "You can't even say what the trauma is, how can my 6 year old live with it?!". It's a really long story that I'm trying to forget, but in the end we see a trauma therapist tomorrow.

We had a service plan review for Baby 4 where everyone comes and talks about where the case is going. Clearly it's still going nowhere fast. Court is next week where we'll do nothing at that time and schedule another date for 6 months out.

Baby 4 is having two surgeries on the same day in a couple weeks, so we've had lots of appointments for that.

This is not foster-related, but my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She beat breast and ovarian cancer in 2003 and has been in remission for almost 10yrs. Her breast cancer is back now, and it complicates things that she already had the breast removed -so that's not an option this time around.

Still, I started feeling like myself last week. The weather got really nice and I was able to get Baby Girl out of the house and into the sunshine everyday. Over the weekend we were able to get together with a bunch of friends and have several playdates for the kids. We went to the zoo yesterday. Last night I went to see Stuck, It's more than a movie. It's a movement. , with my Mom.

Today we got a Hallelujah. It was my first call from a new matcher in my agency. I had it in my gut that it was a respite call and quickly began going over in my head if we could do a respite right now as we exchanged niceties and small talk. Her call wasn't just to chat, though. Neither was it about a respite. She was calling to see if we could take a newborn baby girl in 30 minutes. Healthy, full term- delivered to my door easier than ordering pizza.

Now in major decisions that affect the whole family, it's only right to pause and consult your spouse. But I didn't. I said yes before I even realized what was happening. Baby 9 was already here before Brandon came home from work. He was really excited though :)

I can not stop staring at her. She is the perfect blend of sweet and sassy. LOTS of hair and the cutest baby neck rolls. She smells like Johnson's and smiles in her sleep.

In no way does adding Baby 9 erase the loss of Baby 7. Life doesn't go on like normal. There is no normal anymore, but she is a really beautiful sign that while life has changed us forever, every moment has been necessary to bring us to this moment. She's the little rainbow after our storm.

We have no inkling or clues about how her story will go. This case is so different from any of our other children. She came to use clearly well cared for. She had bags packed meticulously with new clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and bath supplies. That has never happened before. If she stays for week or  a year really isn't the point. She's helped us see the light. We'll work just as hard while she's with us to bring light to her life too.


This post was written earlier this week, but I didn't end up posting it because I'm seriously sleep deprived and totally entranced by Baby 9. She is healthy and beautiful. Everyone has settled nicely. While our schedule is overflowing, so are our hearts.