Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I could have, Instead

Baby 4 was legally freed for adoption in April after 1121 days in Foster Care. WOW! It has been quite the ride. His Dad surrendered with 6 visits per year. The surrender really gives us all the control. We decide when, where, and how long the visits are. We decide who can be there and who supervises. Dad is responsible for calling us with at least a 2 week notice to set up a visit. If he schedules and then misses 2 visits, the contract is void. At a conference between the attorneys before the surrender, it was mentioned that Dad was really nervous about contact once the weekly foster care visits ended and it would be nice to front load this year's visits so there wasn't an abrupt stop to contact. We agreed to have monthly visits at first to accomodate.

May, June, and July visits happened at our house on the first Saturday of the month. Having visits in the foster home is rare. In our county- never expected and rarely recommended. 4's caseworker was not in favor of doing them here. She said we should meet Dad out in the community- at the Zoo or Museum. We made the decision to have them at our house out of convenience. I have 2 toddlers who need medical care and have their own Bio visits. I do not want to be trying to schedule around them. I also don't want to be paying to go to all these places and have to feed everyone while we're there. Our house is also on the bus line, so I don't feel obligated to offer transportation. It really did work out, too. When Dad comes over, it's just business as usual for me. I do chores and hang out in the backyard with my kids. We even had a barbeque with a bunch of other foster families for one of the visits while 4 and Dad played basketball in the driveway before joining us for lunch. It's been good for 4 to viewing seeing his Dad as a natural occurrence rather than it meaning that we stop our usual routine, get dressed up, go out, see Dad, come home, act normal again. It think it's been good for Dad too. He gets to see what 4's routine is. Who is friends are. What he plays with.How we interact together. Dad has been great with gauging how long the visit should go on. He's been staying about 2 hours after a short, but loving 'goodbye' and setting up the next visit with me. He also calls the day before the visit to confirm.

I had a feeling this month's visit was not going to go as planned. Last month, Dad called the day before and asked if we could change the time of our visit from 12 to 3 because he was involved in a basketball league that plays on Saturdays in the Summer. That worked, and the visit happened at 3. I asked him before he left if the next visit needed to be moved down to 3pm as well, and he said he didn't think so, but he'd call me if that changed. Then I didn't hear from him the day before the visit like I had the past 3 months. I Facebook messaged him (the only way I can contact him directly) Saturday morning and asked if he was coming. I explained that we wanted to go to a local festival if possible, so we needed to know. I didn't hear from him by 11am, so we left and went to the festival. He called me at 3pm saying he just got out of basketball, wouldn't be able to meet us today. I could have said, "OK, we'll see you next month.", since he missed his scheduled visit. Honestly, I wasn't upset at this point. We got our day at the festival and even though he didn't call to cancel the visit, I knew he wasn't coming all along. Instead, I offered to pick him up for church the next day and  then we'd go out and do something fun for the visit. He said that would be great, see you at 9am.

Our van can not comfortably hold Brandon, myself, 3 car seats, Baby Girl's nurse, and Dad- so we decided Brandon and 4 would go pick up Dad in the truck while I drove the girls and the nurse to church in the van. I was sitting in church waiting for service to start when I got a call from Brandon. Dad had not come out or answered the door in the past 20 minutes. I could have said, "Well, screw that, leave already!". I mean, seriously, 20 minutes. Instead I called the number that he had called me from the day before. No one answered. Then they text me asking who I was and telling me Dad was not there. I sent a Facebook message that went unanswered. Brandon waited until 9:30 and left. Baby 4 was upset. He knew they were trying to pick up his Dad, but couldn't understand why he wasn't there or wasn't coming out.

After church, we went out to eat with some friends. I brought the girls home for a nap while Brandon and 4 went to see a 3D movie about animated aircraft. At 4pm, I got a call from Dad. He was sorry about this morning. he forgot he had something to do, so he wasn't there. He could come over now if that works. I hold him they were out, and next weekend Baby 4 is at sleep away camp. I could have said, "You missed 2 scheduled visits in a row. The surrender is void." Honestly, that didn't even cross my mind, but I could have said, "The rest of this month really doesn't look good, We'll see you the first Saturday in September at noon.". That would have been reasonable. We only are required to get in 3 more visits before April. Instead, I asked how the following week looked for him. Saturday or Sunday? After basketball? Ok, it's scheduled.

Then he continued. He helps out with a football league too, and Baby 4 is old enough to play this year. They have training every evening this week and games are on Saturdays. No idea how much it costs. No idea how long it goes or exact times. But, there should be a website. I could have said, "Are you kidding me? You are telling me that after a full day of daycamp, he's going to have a full evening of football? I'm supposed to dive him? Where are my other kids while I do that? When are we eating? Oh, and this starts tomorrow? Thanks for the heads up. That's never going to work.". I do not like the idea that he wants us to transport, pay for, and support a program where Dad can show off his son's talents (Baby 4 really has natural athletic talent) when Dad can't even make his visits. I'm unsure about a program that is letting an adult with such recent CPS history work with kids. Instead, I said that sounds like a big time commitment, but I would check out the website. When I couldn't get any information online, I sent Dad a Facebook message to let him know. Then we stopped by the football field the next day to see if Dad was there. He wasn't, and we left.

I told Dad that we would keep in contact. I told Baby 4 that adoption means having 2 Moms and 2 Dads. Keeping my word means more to me than being in control of the situation at all times. When foster and adoptive parents start to focus on having "control" or "a say", it leaves the child in a position of worthlessness. I can protect 4's emotions while trying to continue contact. The only time 4 knew any of this was going on was when Brandon was in front of the house. We do not tell him about visits until they are about to occur. 

Before anyone puts any kind of accolade in the comments, I have to tell you: None of this is me. I am the, 'I could have said'. I like to be right. I like to be appreciated. I want to see justice served to everyone who doesn't live up to my standards. I have also fallen so many times in my own life. I have disappointed my husband and children when my priorities are skewed and my plans are selfish. The God who created the universe has been faithful to deliver the 'Instead' . Even when I'm wrong. Even when I'm unappreciative. He extends grace that I don't deserve. I'm nothing close to perfect. Instead, God is. This story is not about control, or tallying parenting points. This story has always been about love. While 'I could have said' so many things, I'm satisfied to choose 'Instead'.

"For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. " Romans 3:23-24 (Msg)


  1. Congrats on finally getting the surrender! This was a really helpful post for me right now - we have our second pretrial hearing a week from today and I'm already chafing at the idea of four visits a year with M's narcissistic bio-dad. But it's not about me, it's about what's best for M (SNF what's best for her future self) and it's my job to facilitate that.

  2. Missed you! I love reading your blog, and as part of a foster family, I understand a LOT of what you write about. I'm just the big sis, but they are still my babies too! Don't disappear for so long next time! :)

  3. This is a great thing to read right now. We are just starting the application process to foster-to-adopt, and have attended two orientation meetings. My perspective on birth parents has been completely changed and my attitude about these kids being MINE and wanting to basically shun any contact from bio family has done a complete 180. It's not about me getting to be a mom, it's about giving those kids all the love they deserve, no matter the source. I'm hoping we will be able to find the right balance once we get "our" kids so that we can do what's best for them while still being compassionate and loving toward the bio family members. I have no illusions about how tough it's going to be, and I think I will spend many of the visits silently praying for God to put one hand on my heart and the other over my mouth in order to keep me from spouting off should things go in a direction I don't like.

  4. I am a new foster parent and working on the control part. I often joke that God has been trying to teach me to give HIm the control for over two decades and this is his (really mean) way of forcing me to learn. Nice to know others like me are out there.