Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Makes a Family?

This post could just as easily be called: "What I want to post on social media, but don't as to avoid drama". There has been this terrible trend that I'm noticing around foster care circles and with friends and family of foster parents who are trying to be supportive. It makes me want to vomit, and cry, and punch someone's face all at once. It's memes and sentiments along the lines of, Going to court for baby's birthmom. Waste of time since we all know who his real Mom is. Then the naive friend comments, How can anyone think she is a "mom" at all when she can't even come to a doctor's appointment? Or we say something along the lines of, Why does he have any say at all? He hasn't seen her since birth?! Can you even have parental rights if you're just the sperm donor?

Here's the thing: Sharing DNA with someone does make a family. Period. Children who have been conceived using actual, legitimate sperm donors have petitioned the courts to find their Father. Genetics matter. I have first cousins that I met literally once when my Grandmother (who I never met) died. 20 years later- with a mutual non-interest in each other's lives- they are still my cousins. The woman who birthed my Father is still my Grandma. The mere fact that we carry the same bloodline makes us family. When a woman births a child, she is forever the "real", "true", "natural" Mother to that child. Forever. Her legal rights can change. Her access to the child can change. Her family tie to that child does not. She is their Mother. Same for Fathers. To pretend anything else is delusional.

But... But... But... I!!!! 

You what? 

You were there for the child since birth? Stayed up late with them when they were sick? Kissed all the boo boos? Changed all the diapers? taught all the nursery rhymes? Loved without condition? Worked day and night through debilitating exhaustion to help the child heal from the unspeakable things that happened to them? I know. I get it. 

Here's the second thing: Parenting a child does make a family. Period. I have sons who I have not seen in years. When you foster or adopt, you welcome a child into your family. You treat them with the same regard as biological family. You take all the responsibility for the child's well being. You become the "real", "true", "natural" Mother to that child. Forever. Your legal rights may never come. Your access to the child may change. Your family tie to that child does not. You are their Mother. Same for Fathers. The constant need to defend our role make us look delusional.

Biological Family and Adoptive family are not competitors. We co exist -with equal value- in our children. It is hurtful to try to one up each other, or worse, trying to boil down the other party to simply mechanics or mere signatures. 

If I value my child's status in my family (which I do), and I think that my parenting is real and natural (which I do)- I do not need to go around proving myself. Putting down Biological Parents by stripping them of their title and using their actions to discredit their role makes it seem like there is a question of who this child belongs to. Not only does it pose the question, but it suggests we think the answer could be that the children do not actually belong to us.

I didn't come up with this next concept on my own, but I'm not sure who I got it from otherwise there would be major credit given. The question should be posed: Who belongs to this child? The answer should always be all of us. By stepping up and working to keep everyone who belongs to your child connected to them, you are minimizing trauma and loss. You are giving your child the gift of family. You are never making them choose. And (quite selfishly on my part) you are generally more pleasant to be around.

So can we stop the pissing contest, people? Can we just be great parents to our kids without ripping apart their other parents? Can we stop trying to make them the bad guys and collecting accolades for being the heros?

I am committing to stop using BioDad or BirthMom when speaking of my children's parents. Because obviously if I'm talking about Baby 9's Mom, I'm not talking about myself. Respecting their role ultimately respects the child. That's more important to me than being deemed real or true or awesome. I share my child with another Mother. She's a Mom and I'm a Mom. My kids are lucky if they never have to say Goodbye to either of us.

I'm interested to hear what words you'd commit to stop using in respect for the parents who gave life to the children you love. Leave me a comment!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Eat and Run

You know that feeling when you are eating birthday cake in the car after leaving the party early because your child's behavior turned inappropriate before bite 2? Me either...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I feel like I've been living in a bad TV drama the past couple of weeks: police reports, arrest warrants, homelessness, drugs, prostitution, calls from jail, repeated calls from strange numbers, intoxicated threats, locked doors, and a relative resource.

About three weeks ago, I started getting really frustrated and worried about how Baby 9's case was being handled. I completely lost my cool with the caseworker and made her cry. She never agreed to work harder for 9, but offered an, "I'm sorry I've disappointed you.". In court she had said the county had "no concerns" with moving forward towards reunification, but I knew there were several incidents that were cause for concern. I took my concerns up to the supervisor who said the information CPS had was not enough to take action but she would be willing to address the issues with the family. This led to a decrease in the amount of visits and increase in supervision on the case.

I was so angry with the agency. I could clearly see that the situation was getting more and more unsafe for Baby 9, but they did not. They were treating me like I just didn't want to let her go because of my own attachment. The truth is I don't want to let her go, but I would. I've done it before. This was different, something was wrong here.

Literally as I was on the phone with the supervisor, the whole case started to crumble.

Baby 9's Mom essentially imploded.

She can't come to the visits at the county building because she would be arrested upon arrival. I have told her not to come here because of the threats to remove Baby 9 from my home. She was calling every 2 hours, but now hasn't called since Sunday. I am locking my doors and windows for the first time ever. Baby 9 went from 4 visits per week and heading towards overnights to having 1 visit in the past month.

I'm angry. I'm angry at addiction. How dare addiction take up residence in my child's Mother and set itself above my baby?

You see, I've watched it. I've seen addiction step back and let Mom do what she wants to do. She wants to be normal. She wants to complain about raising a toddler, and have a husband that comes home every night at 5:30 ready for dinner. She wants to be in church every Sunday and make a big pot of sauce for dinner after. She wants to be a good Mom. Then right when it looks like she may just make it, addiction steps in and reminds her it is in control. It doesn't matter what she wants . It doesn't matter who she could be. It doesn't matter that even in her lowest place, she always loves Baby 9. What matters is that addiction is more important. Addiction is stronger than she is. Addiction needs her more than her child does. I've looked 9's Mom right in the eye and listened to her tell me very articulately that she does not want addiction. She is not choosing addiction over her child. Addiction chose her.

We can look at situations like these and claim rather self righteously that this is all choice. Parents choose not to be safe for their kids. Parents choose to use drugs and alcohol. They just don't love their kids enough. They don't want their kids enough. It just isn't that simple. There's not good people and bad people when it comes to addiction.

Addiction has never chosen me. I've gone out and had wine with my friends this past week. I took diet pills in high school. I've smoked cigarettes at parties. I've used left over vicodin from my wisdom teeth extraction to settle me down after a horrible day. Then I stopped, and continued on without craving those things again. I've never counted change to buy beer. I've never asked a stranger for a light.  I have never messed up so badly that I had to lie and cheat in fear of getting caught. This was not because I'm more in control than 9's Mom. It's not because I've never batted my eyes at addiction. It's because addiction didn't want me.

I want to yell until addiction doesn't want her either.

I want Baby 9 to have everything- including a healthy Mom.

I found myself praying for her Mom relentlessly this week. I took a drive down the streets where I thought she could be and I prayed the name of Jesus over my daughter's Mother. I prayed Jesus would take her from addiction and light her path to safety. I prayed that Baby 9 gets the chance to hug her Mom at Kindergarten graduation. I can't love anyone enough to save them. Baby 9's Mom is not stronger than addiction. Only Jesus can love her enough. Only Jesus can make addiction flee.

Then I got a call from the caseworker today. They are ready to start the steps of filing a termination. I'm so sad for Baby 9 and her family even though I know that this is the only way to give 9 permanency. She will not be in an environment that lets her grow and be secure if she returns home or stays in foster care. We will absolutely adopt her if that is needed. We would be so blessed to be hers forever.

But now there is a relative resource thinking about having a conversation about possibly stepping forward.

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Time Warped

Today was the most perfect, and probably unfortunate, example of how different I am after 5 years of fostering than the sheltered 22 year old fosterling I remember in a different life.

Upon learning that one of my [past or present] children's Mother was arrested for prostitution last night and is in jail. My first thoughts...

5 years ago:

How horrible!! Wouldn't she think about her children first?! I hope CPS has her and all the children tested for diseases. Certainly visits are off the table! Oh! Jail visits?! Can you imagine?!!


She got picked up for prostitution on October 1st? Who prostitutes on the 1st?! Food Stamps and cash assistance came in today... I mean, if it were the 29th, at least we could say she was broke. I wonder if I have any sports bras that would fit her so I don't have to buy new ones for the stuff I'll drop off tomorrow. What do I need?  2 towels, shampoo, sports bras, underwear, socks...